Caracas – Venezuelan Vice-President Tareck El Aissami published an open letter to the US Treasury Department in the New York Times Tuesday in which he lambasted the body’s recent drug trafficking accusations as an attempt to further derail bilateral relations.
On February 13, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) froze all of El Aissami’s alleged assets in the US under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Act, making the vice-president the top-ranking official of any country to be sanctioned in this way. In particular, the OFAC accused El Aissami of having “facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela” allegedly in collusion with the Las Zetas Cartel in Mexico.
In the letter, El Aissami charged the OFAC of being “deceived” by certain US political factions “whose fundamental interest is to prevent Venezuela and the United States from restoring their political and diplomatic relations on the basis of mutual recognition and respect”.
The vice-president further lambasted the drug trafficking allegations as a “false positive” which he said was intended to “criminalize – by way of my person – the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela”. The US Treasury Department has yet to release concrete evidence buttressing the accusations; meanwhile no US court has indicated that it is opening an investigation into the case.
El Aissami also highlighted the 62 percent increase in Venezuelan drug busts following the expulsion of the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 2005, which he said evidences Washington’s “egregious failure in the fight against drug trafficking”.
“How many heads of drug trafficking organizations has the US captured in its territory? How many banks and tax havens has the US closed for serving as a financial base for this gigantic business and crime against humanity? … The United States should reflect and rectify,” he wrote in the New York Times.
While El Aissami has received resounding support from President Maduro as well as the nation’s armed forces, the number two official has come under fire from the opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN), which has demanded that he resign from his post.
On Wednesday, a special parliamentary commission headed by Popular Will party legislator Freddy Guevara announced that it was opening an inquiry into the US Treasury allegations and called on the vice-president to step down in order to “facilitate the investigation”.
The AN moreover resolved to formally solicit from the US Congress and the US Treasury Department “the precise information that backs up the claims made so the AN can carry out the corresponding inquiry”.
The legislature additionally called on the Public Prosecutor’s office to provide all information relevant to the case.
Neither the executive branch nor the Public Prosecutor’s office have yet responded to the AN’s resolutions.
Venezuela’s parliament has been declared “null and void” by the Supreme Court over the body’s failure to unseat three legislators from Amazonas state under investigation for alleged electoral fraud.
Here it goes again! The same old tired and predictable tune, the same recognizable chorus. Once again the world is told what to think and what to believe. The world is also given both rhythm and leitmotif, so the grotesque and crooked dance could begin.
Who could resist, really? The lyrics of the tune are recited in perfect English, and with that air of moral and cultural superiority, which is supposed to disperse all doubts.
On February 19, 2017, RT published the following:
The Telegraph, as a favored mouthpiece for British intelligence service disinformation, is a part of psychological warfare operation against Russia, said independent journalist Martin Summers. Another accusation is being thrown at Russia as a British newspaper published a story about Moscow being allegedly behind a plot to kill Montenegro’s Prime Minister last October… According to the article, Russia wanted to overthrow the country’s government to stop them joining NATO.
So now it is Montenegro. Yesterday it was Crimea, Donbas, and the US elections. Evil Russia again! Evil China, evil socialist Latin American countries, evil Syria, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, South Africa, North Korea, Philippines, evil all those who are laughing at the notion of Anglo-Saxon superiority.
This time I’m actually not intending to write some long, philosophical essay on the subject of “shamelessness of British propaganda”. I’m just taking a short break from my 10 thousand-word ‘paper’ for the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS); a paper analyzing the impact of the 1917 Soviet Revolution on the world.
I just want to state what I believe should be so obvious, but somehow isn’t, at least to billions of people all over the world: “Those British blokes running the mainstream media outlets and global propaganda network really cannot be trusted. For centuries, no other country brought more grief to the planet, destroyed more lives, ruined more nations and cultures, and stole more natural resources from the ‘natives’, than the United Kingdom.” All this was done with a straight face, all explained and justified by the most advanced propaganda apparatus on earth, all ‘morally defended’. The entire twisted concept of British-style ‘justice’ was first introduced at home, and then exported to many corners of the globe.
It went on for several long centuries, and it goes on until now: the rapists are introducing globally accepted moral codes. Mass murderers are running international courts of justice. Notorious liars and thieves are teaching the world about ‘objectivity’. Gurus of disinformation are even ‘educating’ their own children, as well as the children of elites from all parts of the world, in their ‘prestigious’ factories of indoctrination – schools and universities.
Of course there are some countries that have tried very hard to outdo the UK in terms of brutality, greed and tactics of deception. It is worth mentioning such candidates for genocidal world leadership like France, Germany, Spain and lately the United States. They really have been competing determinately and zealously, but despite all their efforts, they never truly managed to come close to the forerunner.
Please, just think about all this, if you haven’t already done it for years. Then wash your eyes thoroughly, and look anew at those tabloids and ‘serious publications’ that are printed in the UK. Look at the indoctrination television channels. If you are still able to retain at least some detachment and common sense, please compare what they are saying and writing and showing, with the reality outside your own window, wherever on this Planet you may be.
For many years I worked all over the world, on all continents, in some 160 countries. For many years, I was told stories, shown evidence, about the most monstrous and barbaric crimes that the Brits have been committing almost everywhere on this Planet.
To compile even some semi-complete list, one would need to compose at least a sizable brochure, if not an entire book. Let’s just mention a few of the most obvious horrors that ‘Great’ Britain is responsible for: Slave trade and destruction of entire huge parts of Africa with tens of millions people directly or indirectly killed. Monstrous occupation of the ‘Sub-continent’, with tens of millions of lives lost (including those in several artificially triggered famines). Ransacking of large parts of China, murdering and participating in breaking the most populous nation on earth. Brutal attacks against the young Soviet state. Horrid treatment of colonized peoples of the island nations, from Oceania (South Pacific) to the Caribbean. Gassing, bombing, literally exterminating people of the Middle East, from what is now Iraq and Kuwait, to Palestine. There were invasions of Afghanistan and the ‘reign of terror in Kabul’ in 1879. There were many other things, many nightmarish crimes, of course, but today I’m being brief…
In the “New World”, consisting of countries like the US, Canada and Australia, the most terrible massacres of the native people were committed by the first and second generation of Europeans, mainly the Brits.
Britain actually never ceased to commit crimes against humanity. Since WWII it has been tutoring the United States, strategically and ideologically, in the art of how to run the Empire and how to manufacture unanimity inside the West itself, and even among the population of the colonized nations (in the neo-colonialist context).
It has also been involved in some of the vilest acts in modern history, related to countries like Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo as well as entire areas of Asia Pacific and the African Great Lakes.
Again, that’s only a brief and incomplete summary.
Having experience with occupying huge parts of the world for centuries, knowing first-hand how to ‘pacify’ the natives, the Brits gradually developed and then passed on to the rest of the Western world their highly effective and successful indoctrination methods. These were eventually spread further – mainly among the elites of the colonized nations. As a result, fully standardized global perceptions evolved, and were implemented and upheld until this very moment. They included the general worldview, ‘principles’ and ‘moral standards’, law and justice (including such concepts as ‘human rights’), and even the set of overall values.
The English language (especially well articulated; spoken with certain recognizable and ‘acceptable’ accents) became the main linguistic tool embodying both truth and authority.
News presented in a certain ‘objective’ way and with a certain accent (or acceptable set of accents) became subconsciously, for the great majority of people, much more trustworthy than that which would be delivered by individuals whom a great Polish journalist, anthropologist and philosopher Ryszard Kapuscinski used to define as ‘the others’.
This ‘perfect’, seemingly bulletproof system produces intellectual laziness, submissiveness, even servitude. It is successfully upholding the status quo.
Lies are mounting on top of lies, and even the most obvious fabrications lately do not get challenged, except in some marginal and ‘extremist’ (defined by the Western regime) outlets.
The colonialist empire managed to survive. It is now fully in charge. It dominates the psyche of both the colonizers and the colonized. Advances that were made by liberation and independence struggles, by the anti-colonialism fighters during the post-WWII era, have been skillfully annulled. Then, it was officially declared, “colonialism is over”.
At some point, the Anglo-Saxon demagogues invented ‘political correctness’, one more highly effective tool designed to neutralize and ‘pacify’ any serious resistance. Political correctness claims that all nations and races are equal; it is even glorifying those ‘little people’ and almost all ‘cultures of the under-developed nations’, at least verbally, while in reality the Empire keeps plundering and manipulating the planet, as it has been doing for ages. In the colonies, the only individuals who are gaining are the elites; those morally corrupt rulers of the deprived and still enslaved world.
As in the past, the regime pragmatically chooses its enemies, and it then applies the most proven and spiteful tactics, launching defamation campaigns, dehumanizing citizens and leaders of adversary states, creating often phantasmagoric but highly effective conspiracy theories.
The British media, the British propagandists, in fact the entire British establishment, had reached absolute perfection in the field of mind-control and brainwashing.
How else, otherwise, would anyone in his or her sane mind trust the words of those who are responsible for tens of millions, perhaps for hundreds of millions of lost human lives in all corners of the world?
How could the primary architects of our insane global arrangement be taken seriously, unless they managed to fully indoctrinate their ‘subjects’?
Some would suggest that we are living in a world where the ‘normality’ could be found only in an insane asylum; where the only place for a decent man or a woman could be behind some barricade, or behind bars.
However, not many would have such thoughts, as even reflections are now almost fully standardized and controlled. So much glorified freedom has been reduced to just a handful of personal, very limited, often self-serving choices that one is still allowed to make while being generally fully locked within the existing system.
This British, European, in fact Western obsession with controlling, with ruling over everything in this world, has actually fully derailed natural human evolution. Instead of much higher aspirations, instead of optimistic attempts to build an egalitarian, compassionate and joyful society, our humanity is once again stuck in some master-slave morass, in something that appeared to be on its way out even during some periods of the 19th century, and definitely later, in the 20th century.
How to fight this nightmare? I wrote it many times before, and I have to repeat it again: To change things, one has to first understand reality. But it is not only about knowing the facts; it is mainly about how to analyze them, how to perceive the world and essential events.
We are being bombarded, in fact flooded with information, data and ‘facts’. What is missing is a totally new approach towards sorting and analyzing the reality within which we live.
The Empire is not withholding the facts. It is doing something much more sinister: it is depriving people of learning how to analyze them in the most logical ways.
Let us begin with absolute basics: “Mass murderer cannot be a judge”. “Indoctrinator and brainwasher cannot be a teacher”. “Those who are shackling, enslaving billions, should not be allowed to preach about freedom.”
The reality is: we have a handful of deranged, mentally disturbed nations and cultures that have been subjugating, raping and robbing entire nations and continents, still in charge of our beautiful but already terribly scarred Planet.
These morally defunct nations have no compassion left, and no real rationality. This fact they have proven again and again. One million victims, tens of millions of victims – it means nothing to them, as long as they can continue to rule. Ruined nature, disappearing islands, poisoned air, it matters nothing to them. People turning into indoctrinated, intellectually and emotionally uniformed cattle; good, who cares?
It is an extremely unsettling reality, but reality it is. The sooner we recognize it for what it is, the better.
‘Great’ Britain should sit down on its ass and cry in horror, recalling all crimes it has been committing, imagining the concentration camps it built in Africa and elsewhere, recalling the famines it triggered in India and elsewhere, remembering all those innocent people it murdered on each and every continent. It should be howling from shame, because of the nihilism it has been spreading, while ruining enthusiasm, beautiful dreams and hopes of our human kind.
It should stop and weep in horror, picturing instructions it provided to countries like South Africa, the United States or Rwanda – instructions that brought terrible bloodbaths, instead of harmony and progress to our world.
Why all this terror? Just so the UK and its cohorts could continue to rule! It is not about greed only, or natural resources, it is about control.
I don’t want their analyses, anymore. I don’t want their news, their films, their books, and their propaganda materials. Even in the dark solitude of some cave, one could understand the world much better than when reading their disinformation sheets, or when watching their indoctrination channels. All this is just designed to confuse people, to make them passive and submissive. Their announcers as well as their writers are like some sad lobotomized robots: there is no life, nothing new, nothing daring or revolutionary in their words. They function, somehow: they move, they eat, shit, repeat what they are expected to say, but they are not alive.
They only smear, but don’t inspire. If there is any optimism, it is always false, pre-approved, and mass-produced.
If you think about it, it all actually makes sense: A torturer cannot be a visionary, or an idealist.
Compared to China or Iran, the UK is a relatively young culture. But it feels old, tired, spent, and obsolete. Too many crimes and too many lies can exhaust and depress even a young person.
Were England a person, operating in a normal society, it would be either in prison or in a mental institution. The same could be said about the rest of the West.
We have nothing to learn from some murderous maniac, do we? The only concern should be: how to put a straightjacket on such an individual, how to prevent him from killing and harming others, and how to do it as quickly as possible.
I also highly doubt that with such a background and monstrous track record, our dangerous maniac should be allowed to interpret the world publicly, to teach people, and to even participate in the discussions touching the most essential issues facing our planet!
Just as polls show Marine Le Pen of the Front National taking a decisive lead over her two main rivals, Francois Fillon of the Republicans, and Emmanuel Macron of the newly formed En Marche, the latter gets a high-profile reception in Downing Street with British prime minister Theresa May.
Fillon has no plans to make a similar visit to Britain, while Downing Street officially announced that it would not be receiving Le Pen, reported the Independent.
With only weeks to go to the first round of the French presidential elections in April, the British government’s hosting of Macron this week can be seen as an extraordinary endorsement of his candidacy.
One could express it even more strongly and say that Britain is evidently interfering in the French democratic process by elevating one candidate over another.
A spokesman for premier May said that Macron had requested the meeting at Downing Street and «we were able to accommodate».
A smiling Macron photographed on the doorsteps of Number 10 clearly showed him relishing the singular honor bestowed by the British prime minister.
One can imagine the media hullabaloo if Marine Le Pen were greeted in Moscow by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Kremlin to then pointedly announce that her rival Macron would not be receiving a similar invitation. There would be howls of «Russian interference» in the French election.
Indeed, Russia is being accused of doing just that already on the basis of scant allegations. Emmanuel Macron has recently claimed that his campaign is being targeted by Russian hackers and «fake news». Macron’s campaign team is alleging – without providing any evidence – that its computers are being attacked by «Russian hackers».
The liberal pro-EU candidate is also claiming that «Kremlin-run news media» are mounting a fake news «influence campaign» to damage his credibility.
This follows the publication of a news article by the Sputnik outlet earlier this month which quoted French political rivals accusing Macron of being supported by global banking interests and a wealthy gay rights lobby.
Russian government-owned Sputnik has denied that it is trying to damage Macron’s candidacy, and that it was merely giving coverage to criticisms aired by French political rivals.
Based on such flimsy, partisan claims of political interference, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault earlier this week issued a warning to Russia to «stop meddling in the French presidential election».
Thus, a one-sided overblown claim by one of the presidential candidates is raised to a state level as if it is an established fact of Russian subversion of French sovereignty.
This narrative of Russian interference in foreign elections has evidently become contagious. Ever since American intelligence agencies, amplified by US media, began accusing Russia of hacking into the presidential elections to favor Donald Trump, the narrative has become a staple in other Western states.
Last week, German news outlet Deutsche Welle published this headline: «Is Moscow meddling in everything?» The article goes on to ask with insinuating tone: «Does Putin decide who wins elections in the West? Many believe that he cost Clinton the US presidency; now Macron is next France, and then Merkel will be in the line of fire».
The Russian government is legitimately entitled, as are other governments, to hold views on the outcome of foreign elections. After all, many European governments, including those of Germany and France, were adamantly opposed to Trump winning the US election, instead preferring his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. But they weren’t subjected to criticism that they were interfering in the American election.
Regarding France, Russian state interests might be best served by Marine Le Pen taking the presidency. She has expressed a desire to restore friendlier relations with Moscow and to jettison the NATO agenda of hostility towards Russia. Her anti-EU views would also help to undermine the Washington-led atlanticist axis which has driven enmity between Europe and Russia.
The Kremlin has been careful to not make any public statements on the outcome of the French election, nor of any other foreign election, maintaining that it does not interfere. Nevertheless, Moscow is entitled to have its own private assessment on what would serve its own national interests. There’s nothing untoward about that. It seems almost bizarre to have to explain that.
But such is the fever-pitch and hysteria about alleged Russian malfeasance that the slightest sign, such as a random news article airing critical comments as in the Macron example, is taken as «proof» of Kremlin interference.
This is in spite of the fact that no evidence is presented. German state intelligence, for instance, recently concluded that there was no evidence to support allegations that Russia was running a Trump-like influence campaign against Chancellor Merkel ahead of her country’s elections being held in September.
Perhaps the most egregious expression to date of the Russian interference narrative were claims made this week by Britain’s Telegraph newspaper that the Kremlin had sponsored a coup attempt against the government of Montenegro last October.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov lambasted the evidence-free claims as «absurd». Lavrov said it «is just another one in a series of groundless assertions blaming our country for carrying out cyberattacks against the entire West, interfering in election campaigns in the bulk of Western countries as well as allegations pointing to the Trump administration’s ties with Russian secret services, among other things».
The height of absurdity is Britain this week hosting Emmanuel Macron at the Downing Street residence of Prime Minister Theresa May.
May’s intervention is a full-on endorsement of this one candidate at a crucial time in the French election which sees his main rival Marine Le Pen taking a decisive lead in the polls.
But where are the headlines denouncing «British interference» in French democracy?
Western media are too preoccupied digging up far-fetched stories claiming Russian interference based on the flimsiest speculation.
That double standard is clear evidence of the irrational Russophobia that is gripping Western governments and news media. Russophobia that has become a psychosis.
Can you trust any media outlet to tell the truth about foreign affairs? Or are they all part of some propaganda system? Perhaps the best we can do to understand what’s really happening in the world is read/listen/watch a variety of sources, but assume they are all biased in one way or another?
These questions came to mind after a recent Montréal event about Syria.
In a La Presse article, international affairs reporter Agnès Gruda essentially dismissed a presentation by a freelance journalist who has covered the war in Syria by writing: “for who does Eva Bartlett really work? During her conference, she confirmed that she wrote commentaries for Russia Today — a Russian propaganda organ.”
Gruda isn’t the only reporter to highlight Bartlett’s ties to RT when discussing her Syria work. A Hamilton Spectator story about her talks in that city noted, “Bartlett maintains a blog for the state-funded media outlet Russia Today” while Pulse reported that she contributed to the “Kremlin broadcaster Russia Today.” (Bartlett has published five articles about Syria for RT.)
Of course, the question of where journalists publish or who employs them and the interests of the owners/funders of said media does deserve attention. It is not unreasonable to be skeptical of a Russian media outlet’s reporting on Syria. While I’m not current with RT, it’s hard to imagine that a station set up by the Russian government wouldn’t be biased in favor of Moscow’s position in a conflict it is a major player in.
But, does Gruda describe herself as an employee of the billionaire Desmarais family that is heavily involved in Canadian and other countries’ politics? How does Gruda describe journalists who’ve written for Al Jazeera, which is owned by a Qatari monarchy that has backed armed opposition to Assad? Or how about the BBC, CBC and other media outlets owned by governments?
Does Gruda offer readers similar background on journalists who’ve worked on a National Film Board documentary? Created as part of the Canadian government’s World War II propaganda arsenal, the 1950 National Film Board Act calls for it to “promote the production and distribution of films in the national interest.”
Or, does she mention journalists’ ties when they have freelanced for Radio Canada International, a “Canadian government propaganda arm”? Initially focused on Eastern Bloc countries, beginning in 1945 RCI beamed radio abroad as part of “the psychological war against communism”, according to external minister Lester Pearson. Early on External Affairs was given a copy of the scripts used by commentators and it responded to criticism of Canada’s international policies. Into the 1990s RCI’s funding came directly from External Affairs.
Or what about the Canadian Press ? The influential media institution has significant historic ties to official Canadian international policy. During World War I Ottawa helped establish the Canadian Press to increase pro-war coverage and strengthen national identity. A predecessor newswire disseminated Associated Press stories in Canada but the war spurred criticism of the US news agency, which did not cheerlead British/Canadian policy loud enough for some (Washington had yet to join the fighting). “In effect, an arm of the British Foreign Ministry”, Reuters offered Canadian newspapers free wire copy during the war. But, the British press agency would only deliver the service to Ottawa. If the federal government “wanted to ensure that this pro-war imperial news service was distributed effectively across the country”, it had to subsidize a telegraph connection to the West Coast. To support CP the federal government put up $50,000 ($800,000 in today’s dollars) a year, which lasted for six years.
CP “cemented” itself as Canada’s national news service during World War II. “To accomplish this,” Gene Allen writes in a history of the organization, “CP cultivated unprecedentedly close relations with Canada’s military authorities — who had reasons of their own for wanting extensive coverage of the national war effort — and thereby moved some distance away from traditional notions of journalistic independence.” In an extreme example, CP recruited a Canadian Forces public relations officer who led reporters into battle zones. Bill Boss remained with the same unit but began reporting for the news service and would become one of Canada’s most famous war correspondents.
Nationalism remains an important media frame at the CP. “As a warcorrespondent in the 1990s”, former CP reporter Stephen Ward describes facing nationalist pressures. “I came under pressure to be patriotic when reporting on Canadian soldiers or peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere [Iraq] … I should not embarrass Canada by reporting on mistakes in the field; I should not quote soldiers puzzled about their mission; I should do ‘feel-good’ pieces about soldiers watching hockey via satellite in warring Bosnia.”
Most Canadian media face similar pressures in their international coverage, as I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation.
Certainly Russia’s foreign affairs machinery isn’t the only one that shapes international coverage. Highlighting Russia’s “propaganda system” to a Canadian audience without mentioning the one at home indicates either a journalist’s ignorance or that she is part of it.
A grave danger from the Western mainstream media’s current hysteria about “fake news” is that the definition gets broadened from the few made-up stories that are demonstrably false – often fabricated by kids to get more clicks – to include reasonable disputes about the facts of a complex controversy.
This danger has grown worse because The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major Western news organizations have merged their outrage over “fake news” with the West’s propaganda campaign against Russia by claiming without evidence that the Russian government is somehow putting out false stories to undermine Western democracy.
However, when news organizations actually track down “fake news” outlets, they are usually run by some young entrepreneurs from outside Russia who saw made-up stories as a way to increase revenue by luring in more readers eager for “information” that supports their prejudices.
Yet, a front-page Times article on Tuesday, citing “fake news” as a threat to Europe, contains what arguably is “fake news” itself by claiming that many of the purported 2,500 stories “discredited” by the European Union’s East Stratcom operation have “links to Russia” although the Times doesn’t identify those links.
The article by Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy then goes on to blur these two separate concepts: “In a year when the French, Germans and Dutch will elect leaders, the European authorities are scrambling to counter a rising tide of fake news and anti-European Union propaganda aimed at destabilizing people’s trust in institutions.”
But it is this mushing together of “fake news” and what the Times describes as “anti-European Union propaganda” that is so insidious. The first relates to consciously fabricated stories; the second involves criticism of a political institution, the E.U., which is viewed by many Europeans as elitist, remote and disdainful of the needs, interests and attitudes of average citizens.
Whether you call such criticism “propaganda” or “dissent,” it is absurd to blame it all on Russia. When it comes to “destabilizing people’s trust in institutions,” the E.U. — especially with its inept handling of the Great Recession and its clumsy response to the Syrian refugee crisis — is doing a bang-up job on its own without Russian help.
Yet, rather than face up to legitimate concerns of citizens, the E.U. and U.S. governments have found a convenient scapegoat, Russia. To hammer home this point — to make it the new “groupthink” — E.U. and U.S. leaders have financed propaganda specialists to disparage political criticism by linking it to Russia.
Even worse, in the United States, the Times and other mainstream publications – reflecting the views of the political establishment – have editorialized to get giant technology companies, like Facebook and Google, to marginalize independent news sites that don’t accept the prevailing conventional wisdom.
There is an Orwellian quality to these schemes — a plan for a kind of Ministry of Truth enforced by algorithms to weed out deviant ideas — but almost no one whose voice is allowed in the mass media gets to make that observation. Even now, there is a chilling uniformity in the endless denunciations of Russia as the root of all evil.
Though the Times’ article treats the E.U.’s East Stratcom operatives as 11 beleaguered public servants sticking their fingers in the dike to protect the citizenry from a flood of Russian disinformation, “stratcom” actually is a euphemism for psychological operations, i.e., the strategic use of communications to influence the thinking of a target population.
In this case, the target populations are the European public and – to an ancillary degree – the American people who get to absorb the same propaganda from The New York Times. The real goal of stratcom is not to combat a few sleazy entrepreneurs generating consciously false stories for profit but to silence or “discredit” sources of information that question the E.U. and U.S. propaganda.
NATO has its own Stratcom command based in Latvia that also is assigned to swat down information that doesn’t conform to Western propaganda narratives. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy also pour tens of millions of dollars into media operations with similar goals as do major Western foundations, such as currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society. Last December, the U.S. Congress approved and President Obama signed legislation to create an additional $160 million bureaucracy to combat “Russian propaganda.”
In other words, the West’s stratcom and “psychological operations” are swimming in dough despite the Times’ representation that these “anti-disinformation” projects are unfairly outgunned by sinister forces daring to challenge what everyone-in-the-know knows to be true.
If these “stratcom” operations were around in 2002-2003, they would have been accusing the few people questioning the Iraq-has-WMD certainty of putting out “fake news” to benefit Saddam Hussein. Now, journalists and citizens who don’t buy the full-Monte demonization of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin are put into a similar category.
Instead of trusting in the free exchange of ideas, the new attitude at the Times, the Post and other Western news outlets is to short-circuit the process by smearing anyone who questions the official narratives as a “Putin apologist” or a “Moscow stooge.”
Beyond being anti-democratic, this anti-intellectual approach has prevented serious examination of the facts behind the West’s war or words against Russia. To shut down that debate, all you need to do is to say that any fact cited at a Russian news outlet must be false or “fake news.” Any Westerner who notes the same fact must be a “Putin puppet.”
Western “stratcom” doesn’t even want to allow Russian media to criticize politicians who are criticizing Russia. The Times article lamented that “Many false claims target politicians who present the biggest obstacles to Moscow’s goal of undermining the European Union.” The Times, however, doesn’t offer any examples of such “false claims.”
Instead, the Times writes that Russian news channels had “targeted the [French] presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who belongs to the party and is running on a pro-European Union platform.”
But what does that mean? Is it now an act of aggression when newscasts in one country criticize a leader of another country? If so, are the European news channels that have “targeted” U.S. President Donald Trump somehow deserving of U.S. government retaliation? Doesn’t the E.U. – and by extension The New York Times – accept the idea of political disagreement and debate?
This closed-mindedness is especially dangerous – indeed existentially risky – when applied to a confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. In such a case, the maximum amount of debate should be encouraged, instead of what amounts to blacklisting dissidents in the West who won’t toe the official propaganda lines.
Disturbingly, the leading forces in this suppression of skepticism are the most prestigious newspapers in the United States and Europe. Even after the disastrous experience with the Iraq War and the bogus WMD groupthink, Western news outlets that were party to that fiasco have virtually excluded well-reported articles and documentaries that question the U.S. and E.U. narratives of the New Cold War.
For instance, there has been almost no presentation in the mainstream Western media of an alternative – and I would argue more complete and accurate – narrative of the Ukraine conflict, taking into account the country’s complex history and deep ethnic divisions.
It is essentially forbidden to refer to the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych three years ago as a “coup” or a “putsch” or to cite evidence of a U.S.-backed “regime change,” such as an intercepted phone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in which they discussed how to “glue” and how to “midwife” the installation of a new leadership in Kiev.
In the supposedly “free” West, you can only refer to the post-coup events in Crimea, in which the people of the largely ethnic Russia area voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, as a “Russian invasion.” No skepticism is allowed even though there were no images of Russian troops wading ashore on Crimea’s beaches or Russian tanks crashing across borders. The “invasion” supposedly happened even though no invasion was necessary because Russian troops were already in Crimea under the naval basing agreement at Sevastopol.
Amid the West’s current hysteria about “Russian propaganda,” U.S. and E.U. citizens are not even given the opportunity to watch well-reported documentaries about key moments in the New Cold War, including an eye-opening investigative report debunking the Western propaganda myth constructed around the death of Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky or a well-produced historical account of the Ukraine crisis.
Western news outlets and governments even take pride in blocking such dissenting views and contrary information from reaching the American and European publics. Like East Stratcom — the E.U.’s Brussels-based 11-member team of diplomats, bureaucrats and former journalists — establishment institutions see themselves bravely battling “Russian disinformation.” They see it as their duty not to let their people hear this other side of the story.
If that is what the West’s institutions have come to — dismissing reasonable criticism and thoughtful dissent as “Russian disinformation” — is it any wonder that they are losing the confidence of their people?
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
President Trump rose from the ashes of Mike Flynn at his press conference last Thursday. In a bravura performance, defiant and funny at times, the President took on the corporate media en masse.
It is a performance that should not be missed. You can savor both video and transcript at your leisure here.
Trump: “Unfortunately, much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system. The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what’s going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”
Sounds like what many “progressives” have been saying for a mighty long time, and it deserves resounding applause from them.
Trump: “And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word ‘tone.’ The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such — I do get good ratings, you have to admit that — the tone is such hatred.”
And: “Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I’m amazed by it. The public gets it, you know. Look, when I go to rallies, they turn around, they start screaming at CNN. They want to throw their placards at CNN. You know.”
The bias of the press against Trump is so obvious and heavy handed that no one can miss it. I asked one friend who is an avid and careful reader of the NYT whether he could name a single pro-Trump article over the last year. He could not. Does the press believe that the public are such fools that they cannot see this tone? This is but one more sign of the contempt that the clueless Elite have for the working stiff.
Russia and Putin
The most important point of the press conference was undoubtedly Trump’s refusal to back off one inch from his desire to “get along with Russia,” what some call New Détente or Détente 2.0. It is the most important, because tension between the two nuclear powers could well lead to war and nuclear exchange. For anti-warriors of every stripe Trump’s steadfastness was good news. The Flynn episode has not changed Trump’s resolve one iota.
Trump continued. Were he to denounce Russia and Putin, he instructed the press, it would be much easier for him politically. He would be hailed by the corporate press, the elitists of both Parties, the neocons, the Hillarycons and the entire foreign policy establishment, all of whom are itching for a fight, heedless that it might lead to a nuclear exchange. So Trump’s willingness to hold to this position is hardly opportunistic.
But he went farther. Trump let the press know that the atmosphere they are creating would make it difficult to negotiate with Putin, to defeat ISIS, or to bring an end to the crises in Ukraine or Syria nurtured by the US over the last six plus years. Why? Because he would have difficulty making concessions, giving as well as taking which any negotiation or deal demands. Any concession would trigger the charge that Trump is Putin’s puppet, the crazed mantra with which we are harangued daily and for which after all these many months there is not a shred of evidence. This is the very same point that Stephen F. Cohen, Emeritus Professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, often makes in his weekly discussions (Jan.25 episode especially) of U.S., Russia relations with John Batchelor on WABC.
Trump: “But I want to just tell you, the false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia. And probably Putin said ‘you know.’ He’s sitting behind his desk and he’s saying ‘you know, I see what’s going on in the United States, I follow it closely. It’s going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he’s got with this fake story.’ OK? And that’s a shame because if we could get along with Russia — and by the way, China and Japan and everyone. If we could get along, it would be a positive thing, not a negative thing.” (Emphasis, jw).
And later, Trump: “But you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people. And to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world.
If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along — and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There’s no upside. We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other. (Emphasis, jw)… They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
The idea of “getting along” with other nations, even as we compete with them economically, is of course the way to peace and the very antithesis of the path the neocons and liberalcons from the Clintons to Bush to Obama have set us on these past thirty plus years of killing and destruction. And yet the “peace movement” expresses nothing but hatred for Trump and pushes for his impeachment. Some “peace” movement, that.
Back to l’affaire Flynn for a moment. Permit this writer to make a surmise, scarcely a ripple on the sea of surmises these days about the Deep State, Trump etc. Flynn did nothing illegal. Trump did not have to let him go, and it can easily be argued that Trump may have kept blood out of the water by sticking by Flynn and keeping him on. Flynn has been an asset. He is a champion of Détente 2.0 with Russia. He knows the national “intelligence” apparatus and where all its skeletons are closeted. He seems to know the deep story of the support that the Obama and Hillary forces gave to ISIS – certainly indirectly through US allies and probably also directly through the CIA, Mossad etc. But Flynn is also a man near crazed with an irrational bellicosity to Iran. That would have thrown a monkey wrench into Détente 2.0 since Russia and Iran have close ties especially in the fight against Sunni fundamentalist terrorism. So sooner or later Flynn had to go to preserve Détente 2.0. Did Trump take this opportunity to do so? And did Tillerson also crave this? It is a suspicion worth pondering. Trump has shown a cold-blooded capacity to say “you’re fired” when someone’s liabilities outweigh their assets. This writer suspects that Flynn’s time had come.
John V. Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just when we thought the great national embarrassment of a UN Ambassador Samantha Power was over, we are suddenly faced with a new US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who almost makes Ms. Power look like a giant in world affairs and diplomacy.
Addressing the UN Security Council Open Debate on Conflicts in Europe today, Ambassador Haley managed to get nearly every single point spectacularly wrong while mixing in the most banal of platitudes to further deaden the delivery.
It can be tempting to take Europe’s peace and security for granted. Europe is a continent of strong, stable democracies. And Europe is a continent of flourishing economies that benefit from close cooperation.
But Europe faces serious challenges – most acutely, Russia’s attempts to destabilize Ukraine and infringe upon Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
How exactly is Russia attempting to destabilize Ukraine? It was Russia, after all, and not the US, which called together the opposing sides two years ago to hammer out the “Minsk II” ceasefire and reconciliation agreement. Was not that in fact a stabilizing move rather than a destabilizing move?
More than three years ago, the Ukrainian people took to the streets to speak out against political oppression and corruption. These protesters demanded freedom, democracy, and respect for the rule of law, and they succeeded in creating a new Ukraine.
That is not all what happened. It was the “protestors” who started the killing. They targeted police officers to provoke a response and thus add fuel to the simmering flame of months long protests in 2014. Russian propaganda, you say? Not at all. The killers went on television to brag about it!
Here is the story of one of the cop killers, Ivan Bubenchik, as reported in Foreign Policy magazine (hardly a pro-Russia outlet) and told on camera to Ukraine’s Hromadske TV station:
To create a word of mouth effect, you have to shoot two or three [police] commanders I only picked two. And after that, there was no need to kill anyone else, so I aimed at the legs.
Does Nikki Haley support killing police officers?
Another report — this time in the BBC — told the same story. It was Nikki Haley’s peaceful protestors who started the violence by shooting at police:
The protest leaders, some of whom now hold positions of power in the new Ukraine, insist full responsibility for the shootings lies with the security forces, acting on behalf of the previous government.
But one year on, some witnesses are beginning to paint a different picture.
‘I was shooting downwards at their feet,’ says a man we will call Sergei, who tells me he took up position in the Kiev Conservatory, a music academy on the south-west corner of the square.
‘Of course, I could have hit them in the arm or anywhere. But I didn’t shoot to kill.’
Sergei says he had been a regular protester on the Maidan for more than a month, and that his shots at police on the square and on the roof of an underground shopping mall, caused them to retreat.
Does Nikki Haley believe shooting police officers is justified as long as you’re demanding “respect for the rule of law”?
In fact, the overthrow of the government in Ukraine was not at all set in motion by the Ukrainian people. It was planned in Washington and executed in the streets of Kiev, where US policymakers openly urged an overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government.
It is established fact that US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was on the streets of Kiev with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt meeting with the protesters, encouraging them, and handing out food. Later she was caught in a phone call with the US Ambassador plotting in detail the overthrow of the government and how to replace it with Washington’s picks.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was also on the streets of Kiev during the early stages of the coup. He was actively supporting the overthrow of Ukraine’s legal government. Said McCain:
We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently. And the destiny you seek lies in Europe…
Later on CNN, McCain admitted his role in the coup, stating:
What we’re trying to do is try to bring about a peaceful transition here…
How would Senator McCain react were a Russian member of parliament appear in the midst of a Washington, D.C. riot urging “a peaceful transition here”?
Trump’s Ambassador to the UN continued:
But Russia has tried to prevent the change that the Ukrainian people demanded. Russia occupied Crimea and attempted to annex this piece of Ukrainian territory – an act the United States does not recognize.
That is also demonstrably false. Russia did not “occupy” Crimea because the Russian military was already in Crimea! Russia had leased the naval base in Crimea from the Ukrainian government until 2042. The troops were already there. Russia did not attempt to annex Crimea, but rather a referendum was held in which, according to the BBC, 90 percent of the residents voted to rejoin Russia (of which they had been a part since the 18th century).
Surely this is fake news! Why would Crimeans vote to leave Ukraine and join Russia? In fact Russians make up more than 65 percent of the population of Crimea and when the US-backed coup brought to power a vehemently anti-Russian government in Kiev was it really so surprising that the people would look for the exit signs?
Russia then armed, financed, and organized separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, leading to a devastating and senseless conflict that has cost more than 10,000 lives.
Again untrue. The rebellion in eastern Ukraine was fueled by the US-backed coup in Kiev. Eastern Ukraine is predominantly Russian-speaking and in some parts of the region 96 percent voted for the president ousted with US support. As one might expect, unrest follows when one’s president is overthrown with assistance from an outside power. And it was the US who did the arming, financing, and organizing the unelected coup forces who took power in Kiev.
The scenes of destruction from the town of Avdiivka in recent weeks show the consequences of Russia’s ongoing interference in Ukraine.
Avdiivka fell under attack after the Kiev forces advanced into the no-man’s land separating the opposing sides. Ukrainian deputy defense minister Pavlovaky admitted that “meter by meter, step by step, whenever possible our boys have been advancing.”
You get the point. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has no clue what is happening in eastern Ukraine and so has just dusted off the dusty old talking points of the Obama Administration.
While on the campaign trail last year, Donald Trump sharply (and correctly) criticized the Obama Administration’s militaristic foreign policy. At the time Trump said:
…unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength.
He continued by calling for new people and new approaches to foreign policy:
My goal is to establish a foreign policy that will endure for several generations. That’s why I also look and have to look for talented experts with approaches and practical ideas, rather than surrounding myself with those who have perfect résumés but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war. We have to look to new people.
Well, Mr. President, I am sorry to have to inform you of this, but when it comes to Ambassador Nikki Haley, you may technically have “new people” in positions but you most certainly do not have new ideas. You have failed former ambassador Samantha Power’s stale, regurgitated talking points. Enough!
The Netflix movie The White Helmets may win an Oscar in the “short documentary” category at the Academy Awards on Sunday February 26. It will not be a surprise, despite the fact that the group is a fraud and the movie is a contrived infomercial.
The White Helmets are a “feel good” story like a Disney hero movie: 90% myth and fabrication. Most of what is claimed about the Syrian rescue group is untrue. They are not primarily Syrian; the group was initiated by British military contractor James LeMesurier and has been heavily funded (about $100 million) by the USA, UK and other governments. They are not volunteers; they are paid. This is confirmed in the Al Jazeera video which shows some White Helmet “volunteers’ talking about going on strike if they don’t get paid soon. Most of the heavy funding goes to the marketing which is run by “The Syria Campaign” based in New York. The manager is an Irish America woman Anna Nolan who has never been to Syria. As an example of its deception, “The Syria Campaign” website features video showing children dancing and playing soccer implying they are part of the opposition demand for a “free and peaceful” Syria. But the video images are taken from a 2010 BBC documentary about education in Syria under the Baath government.
White Helmets and Nusra
When eastern Aleppo was finally freed from the armed militants, it was discovered that the White Helmets headquarters were alongside the headquarters of the Al Qaeda Syrian militant group. Civilians from east Aleppo reported that the White Helmets primarily responded when the militants were attacked. Soon after departing Aleppo in government supplied buses (!) the White Helmets showed up in the mountains above Damascus where they allied with terrorist groups in poisoning then shutting off the water source for five million people in Damascus.
The White Helmets’ claim to be neutral and independent is another lie. They only work in areas controlled by the rebel groups, primarily Nusra/Al Qaeda. Their leaders actively call for US and NATO intervention in Syria. Video shows White Helmet workers picking up the corpse of a civilian after execution and celebrating Nusra/Al Qaeda terrorist battle wins.
White Helmets and Nusra
The movie is as fraudulent as the group it tries to heroize. The film-makers never set foot in Syria. Their video footage takes place in southern Turkey where they show White Helmet trainees in a hotel and talking on cell phones. Thrilling. There is some footage from inside Syria but it looks contrived. The opening scene depicts a White Helmet “volunteer” going to work and beseeching his son not to give mommy a hard time. Real or scripted?
The message is simple: here are people we can support; they are under attack by the brutal “regime” … shouldn’t we “do something” to stop it??!
ISIS and One Finger Salute
White Helmets’ One Finger Salute
Khaled Khatib is said to be the person who filmed the footage from inside Syria. He has reportedly received a US visa and will attend the Oscars. This will likely garner special media attention. Ironically, some of those who have exploited the refugee issue for their own fund-raising campaigns, like Human Rights Watch, are groups which promote the war which created the refugee crisis.
Khatib has tweeted the first video he took showing the White Helmets. It looks remarkably unrealistic, with a girl who was totally buried being removed without injuries or wounds or even much dirt. Is it really possible to rescue people that quickly? In the real world, rescue workers are told to work slowly so as to not damage or exacerbate body injuries. The original video has the logo of Aleppo Media Center (AMC) which was created by the Syrian Expatriates Organization. Their address on K Street in Washington DC suggests this is yet another Western funded media campaign driven by political objectives.
In the past few days, with perfect timing for the upcoming Oscars, there is yet another “miracle” rescue … another girl totally buried but then removed and whisked away in record breaking time — perfect for social media. Is it real or is it contrived?
This raises a question regarding the integrity of the Academy Awards. Are awards given for actual quality, authenticity, skill and passion? Or are Oscars sometimes given under political and financial influence? There is political motivation to promote the White Helmets as part of the effort to prevent the collapse of the Western/Israeli/Gulf campaign to overthrow the Syrian government. These same governments have given boatloads of money to fuel the propaganda campaign. Last week Syria Solidarity Movement reached out to three marketing firms in the LA area to request help challenging the White Helmets nomination. Two of the firms declined and the third said they were already being paid to promote the nomination!
The true source and purpose of the White Helmets was exposed almost two years ago. More recently Vanessa Beeley has documented the fact there is a REAL Syrian Civil Defence which was begun in the 1950’s and is a member of the International Civil Defense Organizations. This organization is opposite to the group created in Turkey in 2013. According to on-the-ground interviews in Aleppo, terrorists began by killing real Syrian rescue workers and stealing their equipment. Since then the White Helmets have been supplied, by the West through Turkey, with brand new ambulances and related rescue equipment.
Max Blumenthal has written a two part detailed examination of the “shadowy PR firm” behind the “White Helmets”. And Jan Oberg has written an overview survey of the “pro” and “con” examinations in his work “Just How Gray are the White Helmets“.
Yet mainstream media, and some ‘alternative’ media, continue to uncritically promote the myth of the “White Helmets”. The promoters of the group absolutely deserve an award for marketing and advertising. This is a field where truth and reality is irrelevant; it’s all about sales and manipulation. On that basis, the “White Helmets” has been an incredible success. The group was started as “Syria Civil Defense” in Turkey in 2013. It was re-branded as the “White Helmets” in 2014. It was heavily used in 2014 and 2015 by Nicholas Krisof, Avaaz and others to campaign for all out aggression against Syria. In 2016 the group received the Rights Livelihood Award and was seriously considered for a Nobel Peace Prize. These facts show how corrupt and politically and financially influenced the Rights Livelihood Award and Nobel Peace Prize can be.
Meet the White Helmets
The White Helmets movie is a tactic in the ongoing campaign of distortion and deception around Syria. It’s a fraud, just like the fake kidnapping of NBC reporter Richard Engel. The Oscars will be a demonstration of the integrity of the Academy Awards. The reporting on the story will be a test of the integrity and accuracy of media outlets. Ironically, the Israeli mainstream TV program I24 presented both sides and titled the segment “White Helmets: Heroes or Hoax?” In contrast, the highly popular and widely respected DemocracyNow! has only broadcast a puff piece promoting the “White Helmet” disinformation. The coming days will reveal more about the ongoing information war against Syria. Meanwhile an on online petition continues to gather signatures to NOT give the Oscar to the White Helmets deception.
Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Russia is being blamed for interfering in elections across the globe, from the US, Britain, Germany to Estonia and others. Now the tiny Balkan state of Montenegro has jumped on the bandwagon, with an even more reckless version of the ‘Russia-did-it’ trope.
This week Montenegro’s state prosecutor concluded Russian state agents were not only trying to subvert elections, but the alleged plot also involved the attempted assassination of the former prime minister, to prevent it becoming a member of NATO.
With suspiciously good timing, the far-fetched story was given dubious credibility by Britain’s Telegraph newspaper. The day before the Montenegrin prosecutor made the announcement, the Telegraph published an article in which anonymous “Whitehall sources” issued the same claims of a Russian-sponsored coup attempt in Montenegro during the country’s parliamentary elections last October.
The fact the Telegraph is a well-worn conduit for British military intelligence disinformation is relevant.
Moscow lambasted the accusations as “absurd.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the claims were “irresponsible,” having been leveled without any supporting evidence.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted the Montenegro scenario of alleged Russian interference “is just another one in a series of groundless assertions blaming our country for carrying out cyberattacks against the entire West, interfering in election campaigns in the bulk of Western countries, as well as allegations pointing to the Trump administration’s ties with Russian secret services, among other things”.
“Not one iota of evidence has been brought forward about these groundless accusations,” added Lavrov.
The Montenegrin authorities are indeed just the latest to finger Russia as a convenient scapegoat to distract from what appears to be their own internal political problems.
The canard was perhaps given away when Montenegro’s Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic commented this week: “In today’s world, such interference is not specific only for Montenegro.” The minister is clearly trying to wrap Montenegro up in the same cloth of victimhood claimed by others who are impugning Russian malfeasance.
More plausibly, the real story here is Montenegro’s controversial plans to join the US-led NATO military alliance. NATO’s civilian chief Jens Stoltenberg formally invited the country to become the 29th member of the Alliance last May.
However, that move which has been pushed by former premier Milo Djukanovic and his ruling party is widely opposed among Montenegro’s population of 620,000, with polls showing public opinion edging against membership. This public opposition partly stems from the recent history of NATO bombing former Yugoslavia and the subsequent break-up of the state which led to Montenegro’s independence in 2006.
To be sure, Russia is staunchly against Montenegro joining NATO, viewing it as another provocative eastward expansion of the military pact toward its borders. Moscow is supportive of Montenegrin political parties opposed to NATO membership but denies any underhand interference in the country’s internal affairs.
The supposed plot by Moscow to overthrow the Montenegrin government in last year’s parliamentary elections to scuttle plans to join NATO is much more likely to be a ruse by the authorities to drum up anti-Russian public sentiment – with the aim of promoting its pro-NATO cause.
What Russia is accused of hatching in Montenegro – an armed takeover of parliament and trying to assassinate the premier – is so outlandish it can hardly be taken seriously. But the far-fetched allegations are being swept along in the slipstream of a much bigger propaganda drive in the West to blame Russia for everything.
German news outlet Deutsche Welle published an article last week with the headline: “Is Moscow meddling in everything?” It goes on to ask with insinuating tone: “Does Putin decide who wins elections in the West? Many believe that he cost Clinton the US presidency; now Macron is next [in] France, and then Merkel will be in the line of fire.”
In the US, the Senate Intelligence Committee is stepping up its probe into allegations Russian cyber hackers helped Donald Trump win the presidential election on November 8. No evidence has ever been provided by US intelligence agencies to support these claims. But the allegations have taken on a life of their own, becoming coined as “fact” in the media and among Republican and Democratic politicians alike.
In Britain, parliamentarians have retrospectively cited the unproven Russian “influence campaign” for Trump to claim that Russian interference was a factor in why Britons voted unexpectedly in the referendum last June to leave the European Union.
According to American intelligence claims reported last month, Russia has interfered in the electoral process of several other European countries, including Austria, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Estonia, and Poland, as well as Ukraine.
This is in spite of the findings by German intelligence which concluded that there was no evidence that Russia hackers had targeted the country.
In the torrid climate of fake news and “fact-free” narratives, arguably the most egregious exemplar of this are the repeated claims of Russian interference in other nations’ elections. Western news media and governments have abdicated any modicum of responsible conduct to push this inflammatory narrative.
In recent days, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued a warning to Russia after he accused Moscow of interfering in the country’s forthcoming presidential elections. France’s top diplomat apparently based his condemnation against Russia on partisan claims made by presidential contender Emmanuel Macron that his campaign was being targeted by Russia. Macron claims his team’s computers were being attacked by hackers. Again, no evidence was provided. He also pointed to an unfavorable article in Russian news outlet Sputnik as grounds for claiming the Kremlin was out to spoil his campaign.
As in the heyday of the Cold War, and its countless Red Scare stories to keep Western populations cowering in fear, Russia has again emerged as the ultimate scapegoat.
Western states are wobbling from a lack of authority perceived by the public in governing institutions. Decades of economic and social inequality and overseas illegal wars have eroded the legitimacy of established political parties and mechanisms of governance. Western countries are groaning from discontent toward elitist, effete rulers.
The rise of populist figures, including Donald Trump in the US and anti-EU, anti-NATO parties in Europe, is symptomatic of this historical movement of mass protest.
Rather than the establishment parties and institutions, including the mainstream media, accepting that there is a popular revolt underway against a corrupt system, the convenient “explanation” is to blame the decline on Russia. The old Western order is falling apart it seems, from its own internal decay and misrule. But unable to face the truth, the ruling parties and system are desperately looking for a culprit. Russia and its alleged fiendish designs to destroy the Western order is the convenient scapegoat.
The propaganda delirium of blaming Russia for everything has become so fevered that even Montenegro’s ruling clique is emboldened to come up with the preposterous claim that Moscow is trying to assassinate its leaders.
This bandwagon of blaming Russia is prone to its wheels coming off – so ridiculous is it. But there’s also a danger that the anti-Russia vehicle pushed too far could explode into a full-scale war between NATO powers and Russia.
The BBC appear enraptured by the apparent death of Ronald Fiddler in Mosul fighting for Islamic State forces. Fiddler was a former inmate of Guantanamo Bay, so this “vindicates” the War on Terror. The BBC are leading every news bulletin and giving us full spectrum security services propaganda. We have MI6 mouthpiece Frank Gardner, the discredited neo-con chancers of the Quilliam Foundation and the far right professional supporter of military attacks on the Middle East, Afzal Ashraf, all giving us their views every half hour on the BBC.
It has never been disputed that Ronald Fiddler was tortured in Guantanamo, which is partly why he was paid substantial compensation by the British government. It does not seem to have occurred to the BBC as worth any consideration that the fact Fiddler emerged from Guantanamo and apparently became a supporter of violent Islam, does not in any sense prove that he was a violent islamist before being tortured in Guantanamo. Yet that Guantanamo was the cause of his extreme alienation is on the surface highly probable.
The BBC did not interview Moazzam Begg or Clive Stafford Smith or anybody who might have something thoughtful to say on the subject. Instead they went solely for self-reinforcing voices of the right wing establishment, the most pro-invading the Middle East voices that could possibly be found.
750,000 civilians face the assault on Mosul in the next few days. The rebel forces being attacked have precisely the same religion, precisely the same philosophy, and in a significant number of cases belong to precisely the same organisations as the rebels who were driven out of Aleppo by Assad forces and the Russians. Yet the assault on Mosul is apparently a wonderful thing, to be cheered on by the propaganda of embedded journalists, while the precisely analogous assault on Aleppo was an appalling and irresponsible massacre. It must be very strange to stretch your conscience to work in the BBC; a peculiar and remarkable kind of talent.
© Sputnik/ Ramil Sitdikov
As the hysteria over the wholly fictional links between the Trump administration and Russia continues unabated, claims have been circulating about a supposed Russian plot to overthrow the government of Montenegro so as to prevent that country from joining NATO.
To say that the ‘evidence’ for this is thin would be an understatement. The best summary is in the Guardian :
Montenegrin police arrested a group of Serbian nationals on the eve of the 16 October vote and two Russian suspects are wanted over the alleged plot to seize parliament and assassinate former president and prime minister Milo Đukanović.
Montenegrin authorities had previously said the conspiracy was orchestrated by “Russian nationalists” but special prosecutor Milivoje Katnić went a step further on Sunday evening, suggesting that Russian authorities were involved.
“So far we have had evidence that Russian nationalist structures were behind [the plot], but now also that Russian state bodies were involved at a certain level,” Katnić told local media. “The organs of the Russian state must investigate which bodies are involved and open a criminal trial over these acts.”
A spokesman for the Russian president, Vladimir, Putin, dismissed the allegations. “These (are) absurd accusations … We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, including Montenegro,” Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
According to Katnić, a key witness, Aleksandar Sinđelić, a nationalist Serb, was invited to Moscow by Eduard Sismakov, a member of “Russian military structures”, to be cleared for the mission. Sismakov, using the alias Shirakov, “asked him to work first to prevent Montenegro from entering Nato. That is the sole motivation of these structures,” Katnić said. Montenegrin prosecutors suspect 25 people, mostly Serbs, of links to the alleged coup, and are searching for two Russians, including Sismakov, who is believed to be the main organiser.
In other words the entire weight of the claim of Russian involvement in the supposed coup rests on the supposed connection between the plotters and an individual identified as “Eduard Sismakov”. As to who Eduard Sismakov is, he has been identified by the BBC as a former deputy military attache to Poland.
It is just about conceivable that some fiery people in this small but proud Balkan Slav country with its tradition of friendship towards Russia might have come up with some crackbrained plan to overthrow the government in order to prevent it joining NATO. Given the long history of close contacts between Montenegro and Russia it is also just possible that they might have met with some people in Russia and got support from them. To construct from these facts a wild theory of a Russian plot to overthrow the government of Montenegro is however little short of absurd. Yet as leaks from the usual ‘anonymous officials’ to the Daily Telegraph show, the British government is trying to give credence to the whole affair.
It is barely conceivable that anyone in any senior position in Moscow would seriously contemplate the idea of a coup in Montenegro. Though the Russians would obviously prefer that Montenegro did not join NATO, the country is too small and too distant from Russia for this to be a serious issue for them. It beggars belief that anyone in authority in Moscow would take the totally reckless and irresponsible step of ordering a coup in a traditionally friendly country in order to prevent something which for Russia ultimately does not matter.
Moreover for the Russians to plan a coup in another country would be for them an extraordinary step to say the least. Whilst the US has a long history of organising or backing coups in foreign states going all the way back to the coup in Iran in 1953, the Russians have not played any role in any coup in Europe since the Czech coup of 1948. Nor have they engaged in much coup making elsewhere. The coup in Afghanistan in 1978 which they were once widely believed to have organised is now known to have caught them by surprise.
Given their traditional aversion to organising coups in other countries – and their lack of know-how in how to do it – it is scarcely conceivable that the Russians would attempt such a thing in Montenegro where the benefits are small and the risks are so obviously great.
In Montenegro itself the government’s plan to join NATO has come in for a great deal of criticism, and there are reports that the opposition to the government is claiming that the whole coup plot is a fiction fabricated by the government in order to discredit it.
I do not know whether that is true or not. However it is altogether more likely than the farfetched claims about Russian involvement in the plot which the Montenegro authorities are making.
Fleeing to Canada is no longer an option
Liberals are supposed to be antiwar, right? I went to college in the 1960s, when students nationwide were rising up in opposition to the Vietnam War. I was a Young Republican back then and supported the war through sheer ignorance and dislike of the sanctimoniousness of the protesters, some of whom were surely making their way to Canada to live in exile on daddy’s money while I was on a bus going to Fort Leonard Wood for basic combat training. I can’t even claim that I had some grudging respect for the antiwar crowd because I didn’t, but I did believe that at least some of them who were not being motivated by being personally afraid of getting hurt were actually sincere in their opposition to the awful things that were happening in Southeast Asia.
As I look around now, however, I see something quite different. The lefties I knew in college are now part of the Establishment and generally speaking are retired limousine liberals. And they now call themselves progressives, of course, because it sounds more educated and sends a better message, implying as it does that troglodytic conservatives are anti-progress. But they also have done a flip on the issue of war and peace. In its most recent incarnation some of this might be attributed to a desperate desire to relate to the Hillary Clinton campaign with its bellicosity towards Russia, Syria and Iran, but I suspect that the inclination to identify enemies goes much deeper than that, back as far as the Bill Clinton Administration with its sanctions on Iraq and the Balkan adventure, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and the creation of a terror-narco state in the heart of Europe. And more recently we have seen the Obama meddling in Libya, Yemen and Syria in so called humanitarian interventions which have turned out to be largely fraudulent. Yes, under the Obama Dems it was “responsibility to protect time” (r2p) and all the world trembled as the drones were let loose.
Last Friday I started to read an op-ed in The Washington Post by David Ignatius that blew me away. It began “President Trump confronts complicated problems as the investigation widens into Russia’s attack on our political system.” It then proceeded to lay out the case for an “aggressive Russia” in the terms that have been repeated ad nauseam in the mainstream media. And it was, of course, lacking in any evidence, as if the opinions of coopted journalists and the highly politicized senior officials in the intelligence community should be regarded as sacrosanct. These are, not coincidentally, the same people who have reportedly recently been working together to undercut the White House by leaking and then reporting highly sensitive transcripts of phone calls with Russian officials.
Ignatius is well plugged into the national security community and inclined to be hawkish but he is also a typical Post politically correct progressive on most issues. So here was your typical liberal asserting something in a dangerous fashion that has not been demonstrated and might be completely untrue. Russia is attacking “our political system!” And The Post is not alone in accepting that Russia is trying to subvert and ultimately overthrow our republic. Reporting from The New York Times and on television news makes the same assumption whenever they discuss Russia, leading to what some critics have described as mounting American ‘hysteria’ relating to anything coming out of Moscow.
Rachel Maddow is another favorite of mine when it comes to talking real humanitarian feel good stuff out one side of her mouth while beating the drum for war from the other side. In a bravura performance on January 26th she roundly chastised Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. Rachel, who freaked out completely when Donald Trump was elected, is now keen to demonstrate that Trump has been corrupted by Russia and is now controlled out of the Kremlin. She described Trump’s lord and master Putin as an “intense little man” who murders his opponents before going into the whole “Trump stole the election with the aid of Moscow” saga, supporting sanctions on Russia and multiple investigations to get to the bottom of “Putin’s attacks on our democracy.” Per Maddow, Russia is the heart of darkness and, by way of Trump, has succeeded in exercising control over key elements in the new administration.
Unfortunately, people in the media like Ignatius and Maddow are not alone. Their willingness to sell a specific political line that carries with it a risk of nuclear war as fact, even when they know it is not, has been part of the fear-mongering engaged in by Democratic Party loyalists and many others on the left. Their intention is to “get Trump” whatever it takes, which opens the door to some truly dangerous maneuvering that could have awful consequences if the drumbeat and military buildup against Russia continues, leading Putin to decide that his country is being threatened and backed into a corner. Moscow has indicated that it would not hesitate use nuclear weapons if it is being confronted militarily and facing defeat.
The current wave of Russophobia is much more dangerous than the random depiction of foreigners in negative terms that has long bedeviled a certain type of American know-nothing politics. Apart from the progressive antipathy towards Putin personally, there is a virulent strain of anti-Russian sentiment among some self-styled conservatives in congress, best exemplified by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Graham has recently said “2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress.”
It is my belief that many in the National Security State have convinced themselves that Russia is indeed a major threat against the United States and not because it is a nuclear armed power that can strike the U.S. That appreciation, should, if anything constitute a good reason to work hard to maintain cordial relations rather than not, but it is seemingly ignored by everyone but Donald Trump.
No, the new brand of Russophobia derives from the belief that Moscow is “interfering” in places like Syria and Ukraine. Plus, it is a friend of Iran. That perception derives from the consensus view among liberals and conservatives alike that the U.S. sphere of influence encompasses the entire globe as well as the particularly progressive conceit that Washington should serve to “protect” anyone threatened at any time by anyone else, which provides a convenient pretext for military interventions that are euphemistically described as “peace missions.”
There might be a certain cynicism in many who hate Russia as having a powerful enemy also keeps the cash flowing from the treasury into the pockets of the beneficiaries of the military industrial congressional complex, but my real fear is that, having been brainwashed for the past ten years, many government officials are actually sincere in their loathing of Moscow and all its works. Recent opinion polls suggest that that kind of thinking is popular among Americans, but it actually makes no sense. Though involvement by Moscow in the Middle East and Eastern Europe is undeniable, calling it a threat against U.S. vital interests is more than a bit of a stretch as Russia’s actual ability to make trouble is limited. It has exactly one overseas military facility, in Syria, while the U.S. has more than 800, and its economy and military budget are tiny compared to that of the United States. In fact, it is Washington that is most guilty of intervening globally and destabilizing entire regions, not Moscow, and when Donald Trump said in an interview that when it came to killing the U.S. was not so innocent it was a gross understatement.
Ironically, pursuing a reset with Russia is one of the things that Trump actually gets right but the new left won’t give him a break because they reflexively hate him for not embracing the usual progressive bromides that they believe are supposed to go with being antiwar. Other Moscow trashing comes from the John McCain camp which demonizes Russia because warmongers always need an enemy and McCain has never found a war he couldn’t support. It would be a tragedy for the United States if both the left and enough of the right were to join forces to limit Trump’s options on dealing with Moscow, thereby enabling an escalating conflict that could have tragic consequences for all parties.