John Mueller, the US political scientist who coined the term “sanctions of mass destruction,” to show that “economic sanctions…by large states…may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history” , wrote an article two years ago in Foreign Affairs, the major foreign policy journal of the US establishment, challenging the idea that Syria’s chemical weapons (when it had them) were a threat.  Mueller examined the history of chemical weapons since WWI to make the point that chemical agents are misclassified as weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
According to Mueller, chemical weapons accounted for less than one percent of battle fatalities during the First World War; it took one ton of Sarin gas on average, during that conflict, to produce a single fatality; and only 2-3% of those gassed on the Western front died, compared to a fatality rate 10 to 12 times higher among those who were struck by bullets or shrapnel from conventional weapons. 
In their official history of WWI, the British concluded that “gas made war uncomfortable…to no purpose.”  Accordingly, most handsomely funded militaries with generous weapons development programs or the means to purchase highly destructive armaments were quite happy to relinquish their chemical weapons. They are ineffective and conventional arms produce far higher rates of fatalities.
But in the course of challenging the view that chemical weapons are WMD, Mueller came close to making a far more significant point, namely, that the concept of WMD is used for propaganda purposes to vastly exaggerate the threat posed by official enemies that have “weapons of little destruction.” This is done by creating the impression that the ineffective weapons in the enemy’s arsenal are weapons of great destructive power, through the pairing of weapons of little destruction, like chemical agents, with highly destructive armaments, like nuclear weapons. Two auxiliary points are necessary here: (i) These “enemies” are comparatively weak militarily, without the massively destructive conventional arms found in the arsenals of major military powers; (ii) The previous point explains the “enemies’” possession of weapons of little destruction. To exaggerate to make a point, labeling chemical weapons as WMD is like calling the spears of hunting and gathering tribes WMD in order to turn primitive people into threats.
In 1992, the term WMD was explicitly codified in US law to include not only nuclear weapons but chemical and biological weapons, as well. Then, in 1994, radiological weapons—conventional bombs used to disperse radioactive material—were added.  But chemical, biological and radiological weapons have nowhere near the destructive capability of nuclear weapons, to say nothing of the destructive capability of the high yield conventional explosives in the arsenals of the US and other large militaries.
So why would the United States subsume a class of highly ineffective weapons under a rubric archetypically defined by nuclear weapons?
For the same reason the British quintupled their gas casualty figures in WWI—to justify a military intervention. For the British, making gas into a uniquely inhuman weapon demonized the Germans, the major users of gas. This could be used, it was hoped, to draw the United States into the war on the side of the Triple Entente. 
For the United States, in 1992, investing chemical weapons with the same kind of horrific aura that nuclear weapons have, served the political purpose of making Iraq, which had chemical weapons—furnished by the United States, which condoned their use by Iraq against Iran —appear to be a unique threat—one that had to be dealt with by imposing what amounted to a blockade to starve the population into submission. The blockade contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not over a million, Iraqis—more people than could ever be killed by all of the chemical weapons in the US-supplied Iraqi arsenal—truly, sanctions of mass destruction, and far more terrible than chemical weapons.
So, WMD, applied to chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, is by design, a term of deception, whose purpose is the manipulation of public opinion to soften up attitudes to war against countries that (i) are an obstacle to US geopolitical designs and (ii) have one or more types of these weapons of little destruction.
These days, the concept of WMD as part of the propaganda system of Western states has been used against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. The nature of the government in Damascus, and the reason it finds itself in the cross-hairs of the West’s regime-change apparatus, can best be explained in the words of its president. “Syria,” asserts Assad, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.”  In other words, the Syrian government pursues Syria’s interests, not the interlocked political agendas of Washington and economic agendas of Wall St.
To demonize this obstacle to Western agendas, the charge is leveled at Damascus that it is responsible for at least one chemical weapons attack, for which no clear evidence has ever been adduced that implicates the Syrian army, and for which the use of chemical weapons would have been a transparent tactical blunder since it would have delivered to Washington a pretext to directly intervene militarily in Syria. For this reason it is highly improbable that the Syrian army was behind the attack. An additional charge, made now that Syria has abandoned its chemical weapons, is that it routinely uses chlorine gas as a weapon.
As a weapon, chlorine gas is exceedingly ineffective. It is lethal only in highly concentrated doses and where medical treatment is not immediately available. It is far less effective than conventional weapons.  Why, then, would the Syrian army use a highly ineffective weapon, which is deplored by world public opinion, and whose use would provide the United States a pretext to directly intervene militarily in Syria, when it has far more effective conventional weapons, which are not deplored by world public opinion, and whose use does not deliver a pretext to Washington to intervene? Unless we believe the government in Damascus is comprised of a collection of imbeciles, this makes no sense.
On the other hand, let’s look at this from the perspective of the opposition. It has a strong motive to use chlorine gas in order to pin blame for its use on the Syrian army to create a pretext for direct US military intervention. What’s more, the opposition’s major forces have a long history of using chlorine gas as a weapon.
Chlorine gas has been used by Sunni militants in Iraq for over a decade. It has been used intermittently in attacks against US and Iraqi forces and against civilians since 2003. There was a flurry of such attacks in Anbar province in 2007 as US forces were trying to wrest control of the territory from Al-Qaeda in Iraq , an organization from which sprang ISIS and al-Nusra, the principal militant groups in Syria today.
In light of the above, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who’s using chlorine gas in Syria: the forces that have a motive for their use and a history of using them. Nor do you have to be particularly perceptive (only attentive) to determine that the insinuation of US politicians and leading news media that the Syrian government is weaponizing chlorine gas is a deliberate deception, on par with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell inventing a pretext for war on Iraq by concocting a deliberate fiction about Iraq concealing chemical weapons, a fabrication leading news media legitimized.
The concept of WMD provides a context in which the public is manipulated to see governments whose militaries have ineffective weapons, of a destructive capability far below that of the conventional weapons in the arsenals of major militaries, as uniquely inhuman and vastly destructive, thereby depicting these governments as dire threats and consequently as necessary targets for regime change. Syria’s relinquishing its chemical weapons stores has undercut the ability of Western governments to demonize Damascus as a user of WMD. Accordingly, the Western propaganda system, of which governments, leading news media, and leading human rights NGOs are a part, has invoked allegations of chlorine gas use by the Syrian Arab Army to bring WMD back into the picture.
But it should be made clear, first, that it is a corruption of the truth to equate weaponized chlorine gas, a weapon of little destruction, with nuclear weapons and veridical WMD; second, that the allegation that the Syrian military is deploying a weapon of little destruction when it has more effective weapons and use of chlorine gas would deliver a pretext to Washington to directly intervene militarily in Syria, strains credibility; and third, there is, not surprisingly, a complete absence of credible evidence that the Syrian army has used chlorine gas as a weapon. It is the propaganda apparatus of Western states—itself a weapon of mass deception–that advances the antitheses of these points.
1. John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “Sanctions of Mass Destruction,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 1999.
2. John Mueller, “Erase the Red Line: Why WeShouldn’t Care about Syria’s Chemical Weapons,” Foreign Affairs, April 30, 2013.
5. Ibid; The radiation dispersal range is equal to the blast range. Hence, anyone exposed to radiation would be killed first by the conventional blast. Adding radioactive material, then, to a conventional bomb is pointless—like shooting someone two days after he has been beheaded.
7. Glen Kessler, “History lesson: When the United States looked the other way on chemical weapons,” The Washington Post, September 4, 2013
8. President al-Assad: Basis for any political solution for crisis in Syria is what the Syrian people want,” http://www.syriaonline.sy/?f=Details&catid=12&pageid=5835
9. Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta, “Syria is using chemical weapons again, rescue workers say,” The New York Times, May 6, 2015.
10. Kirk Semple and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. is investigating report that Islamic state used chlorine gas,” The New York Times, October 23, 2014.
The New York Times ran an article on May 12 suggesting that the Syrian government has held back some of its chemical weapons and is using them against rebel fighters. Significantly, the allegation was backed by no evidence, yet the newspaper chose to run the story anyway.
In their story (“Inspectors in Syria find traces of banned military chemicals”) reporters Somini Sengupta, Marlise Simons and Anne Barnard cited a conclusion drawn by an anonymous Western diplomat who was briefed on findings by inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The inspectors had reportedly found traces of toxic nerve agents in Syria. The diplomat was quoted as saying that there’s a “strong suspicion” that the Syrians “are retaining stockpiles which are being held back.”
However, a close reading of the article showed that there was not one whit of evidence to back up the diplomat’s suspicion. Indeed, at various points in the article, the story’s lead was challenged by the journalists themselves.
• “[S]mall amounts of banned agents [have been found. But these findings] do not necessarily indicate a lingering weapons program.”
• “[T]here was no clear evidence of new use or production of forbidden chemicals.”
• “There is no evidence that banned materials were used in weapons after Syria signed the treaty, or that Syria possesses sufficient quantities to use in future weapons.”
A fitting headline would have read “Western diplomat accuses Syrian government of hiding chemical weapons, on no evidence.”
In the same article the reporters refer to “mounting evidence that Mr. Assad’s forces had violated the terms of the international treaty banning use of chemical weapons … by dropping jerry-built chlorine bombs on insurgent-held areas.” The mounting evidence turned out to be the testimony of witnesses who say the bombs have been dropped from government helicopters.
However, the quality of the evidence is untested, and virtually useless. There’s no way to determine whether the witnesses are authentic or simply opponents of the Syrian government who have an interest in spreading false allegations.
What’s more, there’s a compelling reason to believe that Syrian forces have not engaged in the action they’re accused of. Jerry-built chlorine bombs are capable only of briefly incapacitating a few fighters. Conventional bombs—which the Syrians have in abundance—permanently eliminate many more. Why, then, would Syrian forces risk worldwide condemnation to use an ineffective weapon, when they have more effective weapons at their disposable which world opinion does not condemn?
Sensing that their source’s allegation may be treated with suspicion, the New York Times journalists acknowledge that “Evidence of chemical weapons remains a fraught issue for global public opinion more than a decade after false claims of an Iraqi chemical weapons program were used to justify the American invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein.”
No less fraught is the complicity of Western media in propagating similarly baseless allegations to serve an obvious political agenda.
Published on March 13, 2015
Much is not what it seems around the tragedy of the Malaysian airliner MH17 which was shot down above the Ukraine on july 17th 2014. This video challenges the immediate reflexes by the establishment media and governments, it explains the true story behind the events in the Ukraine and the loopholes in the official investigation.
The following anecdote may or may not be apocryphal, but either way given the geopolitical zeitgeist, the “moral” of the “fable” is a telling one. The story goes that during the 1980s a group of American journalists were hosting a visit to the U.S. of one of their Soviet counterparts. After proudly showing their visitor the “ropes” as to how it all works stateside, most of them expected their guest to express unbridled envy at the professional liberties they enjoyed in the Land of the Free Press. Later, whilst comparing notes about how they respectively went about plying their trade, the Russian scribe was indeed compelled to express his unabashed “admiration” to his hosts – but it was for the “superior quality” of American “propaganda.”
Now it’s fair to say his hosts were taken aback by what was at best a backhanded compliment. After some collegial argy-bargy about the stereotypes customarily associated with Western “press freedom” versus those of the controlled media in the Soviet system, one of the Americans called on their Russian colleague to explain himself. In fractured English, he replied with the following:
“It’s very simple. In Soviet Union, we don’t believe our propaganda. In United States, you actually believe yours!”
Many people familiar with this relatively obscure yarn might this week have once more been reminded of its enduring pertinence in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 eras with the airing last week on “60 Minutes” Australia of a report claiming to have solved the mystery of the Malaysian Airlines MH-17 shoot-down disaster last July 17 over eastern Ukraine.
This would especially have been the case with those of us who’ve had singular difficulty with the official Western position on who was actually responsible for the incident, one to which the “60 Minutes” segment seemed to go out of its way to give its seal of approval.
Along with reviving a major international story that for almost six months now has all but gone missing in media action, the “60 Minutes” crew ostensibly have added fuel to the fire that still attends the broader Ukraine situation, along with that of the resultant standoff between Russia and America and its Western allies, over what is happening in that country. In this context the introductory anecdote (above) takes on additional resonance.
I will return to the actual “60 Minutes” segment shortly along with some reactions to it. However, given the long dormant status of the story, it is necessary to revisit some of the key aspects of this international tragedy, one in which Australia lost 38 people, second only to the Netherlands, which lost 193 nationals.
The significance of the MH-17 story cannot be underestimated, despite – or indeed because of – its extended absence from the news cycle. This, not least because of the large number of family members and friends both in Australia and worldwide of those who perished and who themselves are still, some 10 months later, looking for answers and some closure. Moreover, the very fact this incident took place within the supercharged geopolitical atmosphere that is the Ukraine crisis, one even more charged now than it was then, is also of considerable importance.
From the outset, Western governments and politicians from across the political spectrum – led by the nose by the neoconservative cabals in Washington and dutifully buttressed by their propaganda shills in the corporate or mainstream media (MSM) – relentlessly sought to assign blame to Russia for the shoot-down. This was a textbook media case study reinforcing the old adage about never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. In the course of doing so, they recklessly inflamed an already intense standoff between the two countries over the Ukraine crisis, one that it has to be emphasized, is largely of America’s own making.
Despite official denials from Washington, this “crisis” we now know was custom-designed and purpose-built by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and her posse of “regime changers” in the State Department, dutifully backed up by their neoconservative cronies (including Nuland’s husband Robert Kagan), to say little of the “liberal interventionists” in the Obama administration and in the broader Official Washington community.
As for what actually happened to MH-17 and who was responsible, Washington and the MSM in the West continued to maintain their rage for Russia despite being unable to provide concrete evidence of their claims, all the while singularly failing to provide news consumers and the general public with the full story, at least to the extent it was known.
If nothing else (and with this story there is plenty “else”), the MH-17 fallout was emblematic of the MSM’s long, well (if not fully) documented, and not so illustrious history of venal complicity in blindly validating Western governments’ approved narratives, along with sanctioning their official agendas and, whether through sins of omission or commission, suppressing their secret ones.
This is not conspiracy theory; it’s conspiracy reality. In fact it remains one of the key reasons why the generic MSM brand is in such decline among discerning news consumers seeking timely truths and authentic realities about the world in which we live and the forces which shape it.
For those folks highly skeptical, even dismissive, of the official narrative of the events leading up to and attending the MH-17 disaster, it was and has always been a “put up or shut up” proposition. This is something even the “60 Minutes” folks would have known from the start. And although we can say those promulgating this official narrative were unable to “put up” (albeit not for the want of trying), they eventually did “shut up.”.
The Blame Game
It seems then the politicians and their praetorian guard-dogs in the MSM were unable to sustain the breathlessly hysterical, one-sided “blame game” they collectively indulged in with respect to Russia, all the while reserving particular animus for its President Vladimir Putin. The “blame game” then was called off, though it was always something of a “shell-game” in disguise.
The hypocrisy was breathtaking in its scope, duration and intensity. Indeed, so “hysterical” was the backlash, Western leaders appeared to be outdoing themselves in carrying the can for Washington, with arguably Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott leading the pack by earlier threatening to “shirt-front” the Russian president over the issue during his official visit to this country last November for the 2014 G20 meeting in Brisbane.
Coming from a national leader on the world stage, this unprecedented, petulant outburst was something to behold. But such was the fervor of the times regarding MH-17 especially, and more broadly, the anti-Russian mood that prevailed earlier in the year over Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine in the aftermath of the U.S.’s prefabricated coup d’état.
Yet even putting aside the reality, Abbott was doubtless playing to local audiences given the number of Aussies killed in the shoot-down (to say nothing of his rock-bottom domestic political stocks at the time), it was clear from this moment the anti-Russian mood across the West at least within official circles – if the effective G20 snubbing of Putin was any indication – had indeed reached a crescendo if it hadn’t taken on a life of its own.
The MH-17 incident proved to be a powerful lightning rod through which the bear baiting could effectively be channeled by all and sundry. It was the gift that kept on giving for the neoconservatives and their interventionist confreres, along with those American allies wanting to ingratiate themselves with the Beltway Bandits on both banks of the Potomac.
Then, after the G20 in Brisbane, the collective Western umbrage died out. The intensity and duration of the ongoing anti-Russian feeding frenzy was completely at odds with the abruptness with which the MH-17 matter disappeared from the news cycle. The silence on MH-17 might have been deafening, yet it spoke volumes at the same time, and still does. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Danger of an MH-17 ‘Cold Case’” and “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]
That said, in retrospect it seems it was only a matter of time before someone somewhere sought to revive the story complete with the “Putin did it” narrative. Cue here “60 Minutes” Australia!
The Dogs Not Barking
Now we can only surmise that this recent revelation purporting to be the definitive account of what actually happened to, and who was responsible for, the MH-17 shoot-down was the end result of a decision by the “60 Minutes” folks to boldly go where their colleagues in other MSM outlets feared to tread, fears based one suspects on the old adage that it’s better to let sleeping media dogs lie after all.
Moreover, one suspects this may have been an attempt by “60 Minutes” at brand “rehab,” since for those of us with a more nuanced view of how the MSM really works have known for some time said “brand” has become somewhat shop-soiled over the years. And given “60 Minutes” status as a flagship MSM name – whether in Australia or in the U.S. – going down this path was always going to attract people’s attention. For this reason alone it was fraught with peril, so they just had to get this one right!
Which is to say, this was the only way they could go if they were attempting to revive the MH-17 story. Considering the basic laws governing the media news-cycle, efforts to do so had to be accompanied by some groundbreaking new insights, or at least the next best thing. And one can only wonder what the “next best thing” might have looked like short of finding the “smoking gun” (or should we say, “smoking BUK”) and identifying the persons who fired it. This was especially the case given the hammering the same media gave the issue from the outset.
But in declaring unequivocally they had indeed done all this, in the process correspondent Michael Usher and his intrepid “60 Minutes” team of investigators may have not only opened up a can of worms, they might also have bitten off more than they can chew and dug themselves into an even deeper hole in one fell swoop. They are going to look awfully silly if they aren’t able to sustain the narrative they have assembled from their investigations.
The proof will be in the pudding going forward one imagines, the “pudding” in this case being largely whether the general public in Australia or anywhere else accepts their conclusions, and whether other MSM outlets pick up on the story and continue to run with it. And as of this writing, there appear few signs their MSM confreres – either in Australia or in the U.S. – are chomping at the bit to do so.
With this in mind, if Robert Parry of Consortium News has anything to do with it, rather than gaining any ongoing traction, the story as it stands will be stopped in its tracks. Although his profile Down Under may not be high, Parry is one of America’s most respected investigative journalists working in the alternative, independent media space. He’s also someone who has taken a very strong interest in the MH-17 incident, and in the broader situation in the Ukraine. After viewing the “60 Minutes” report, he was to put it mildly less than impressed with Usher and Co.’s “findings.”
Now because readers can decide for themselves by viewing the various links herein and doing their own research if so inclined, there’s little point rehashing the minutiae of the “60 Minutes” revelations or providing a blow-by-blow account of Parry’s own responses. It is however worth noting some of the key points.
The Video Mismatch
To begin with, Parry suggests that “60 Minutes” might have “faked” a key piece of evidence in arriving at its conclusion – in claiming that it had located the spot where a video was taken after the MH-17 shoot-down and showing what appears to be a BUK launcher making a getaway. The “60 Minutes” team claimed the spot was in rebel-controlled Luhansk and the launcher was fleeing back to Russian territory. However, Parry noted that the scene in the earlier video didn’t match the site shown by “60 Minutes.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Fake Evidence Blaming Russia for MH-17?”]
Further, Parry pointed to one of the main bones of contention for those of us who have had great difficulty accepting the official position, that being “the dog-not-barking question of why the U.S. government has withheld its intelligence data.” This is a not unimportant consideration by any means and one to which we’ll return.
Not unexpectedly the “60 Minutes” folks in response took considerable umbrage at Parry’s suggestion they were engaging in journalistic “sleight-of-hand” in the way they had framed their narrative and presented their “ground-breaking new insights.” One member of the investigative team tweeted that Parry had made a “huge and embarrassing mistake” – but didn’t say what it was.
However it was the segment’s producer Stephen Rice who adopted an especially righteous stance. Describing Parry’s claims as “nonsense, and demonstrably wrong,” he then went for the journalistic jugular by declaring Parry’s piece “an amateurish attempt to discredit our story, embarrassing even for him.” Now the loaded phrase “even for him” is a measure of Rice’s “umbrage” to be sure, and suggests that for reasons about which we can only speculate he had little regard for Parry’s journalistic integrity even prior to his outburst.
There was certainly a whiff of the “methinks he doth protest too much” about it. Yet one is left wondering if Rice is so convinced they got their story right and that the facts speak for themselves, whether this decidedly nasty additive at the end of his salvo was actually necessary, or for that matter was becoming of any self-respecting journalist.
But they left themselves wide open to Parry’s follow-up response, again noting that the two images – one from the night of July 17 and the other from the “60 Minutes” show – simply don’t match up and that all the hostile rhetoric won’t change that fact. Parry again published the side-by-side images with an invitation to readers to decide for themselves. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “You Be the Judge.”]
And in respect to any further consideration of who the real culprits were and as to what actually happened to MH-17 – the sole focus of the “60 Minutes” story – the significance of the “question” regarding why U.S. intelligence data has been withheld cannot be overstated. With this in mind, in the course of their investigation, why didn’t the “60 Minutes” folks seek out someone from the U.S. Government to provide corroboration or otherwise from their own intelligence data as to the veracity of their findings?
Or to put it in even simpler terms, why didn’t “60 Minutes” ask the U.S. Government point-blank why they have thus far refused to release all the satellite imagery and related intelligence data on the MH-17 shoot-down that by most objective accounts would put the matter to rest once and for all? We might safely surmise herein this is because of the same reason there is still much evidence yet to see the light of day regarding the JFK Thing, or the 9/11 Thing, or the Iran/Contra Thing or any number of other memorable “Things” for which full explanations and revelations from the U.S. government remain outstanding.
More Revelation, Less Accusation
Taking then a broader view, there are a myriad range of other issues and angles to be considered for anyone revisiting the whole MH-17 tragedy: the geopolitical milieu in which the MH-17 incident took place and the narrative framework in which its story continues to play out – the ongoing Ukraine crisis created by Washington; the West’s diplomatic marginalization of Russia coupled with the economic sanctions; the incessant saber-rattling and continuing encroachment by NATO around Russia’s borders; the resentment and suspicion that America through its belligerent foreign policy machinations is fomenting with nations such as Iran, China and others – all has the potential to determine the fate of nations and the geopolitical landscape for years to come. And not it needs be said, in a good way. And that’s without considering the “nuke” factor!
In this context then, the MH-17 disaster in realpolitik terms may not even matter that much anymore. This may explain why the story disappeared so quickly from the media radar. In reality and again with the benefit of some rear-view-mirror gazing, the MH-17 tragedy was always a geopolitical football from the beginning, and in that sense it has long since served its purpose.
To underscore this and at the same time point to some of those myriad issues and angles regarding the MH-17 shoot-down that have all been swept under the carpet – including it should be noted by our intrepid “60 Minutes” journalistic “gumshoes” – the documentary by Peter Vlemmix is a must watch.
To be sure, there are “plenty” of other folks who have questioned and indeed openly challenged the rationale for the official response from Western politicians and the MSM. But Vlemmix’s film is as good a place to begin for those looking to gain a more complete – and more dispassionate – perspective. And for those wishing to explore an alternative summary of the evidentiary minutiae specifically addressed by “60 Minutes,” the link herein is also highly recommended.
Further, it may also be instructive to consider the following. Over three months ago and well after the MH-17 story disappeared from the radar, I personally sent to Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop an email presenting her with a number of queries regarding the Australian government’s official position on MH-17 at that point. These are some of the questions I asked the Minister then, and they remain pertinent now:
- What countries are currently involved in [the MH-17] investigation, and what specific role is Australia playing? At what stage is the investigation itself and when does the Minister expect that it will be completed and a report available?
- Can the minister confirm or deny speculation/reports that the findings of the investigation will not be released? If they are not to be released as has been reported, can the Minister please explain why this is the case?
- If it is found the Ukrainian separatists were responsible – which seems to be the official position of most stakeholders – will this change the position of the countries involved as to whether the findings indeed will be released if at this stage there is – as reported – no plans to do so?
- If the report is not to be released, will the relatives of the victims be privy to the findings, regardless of the outcome of said findings? If not, why not? If so, what conditions might be placed on them re: confidentiality if indeed the report is not going to be released in full un-redacted? Will they still be able to seek compensation from those responsible, regardless of who that is?
- If it is found that the Russian separatists were not in fact responsible for this disaster, will the Australian government lift the sanctions imposed on the Russian government in the wake of the disaster? Will the Australian Prime Minister also apologise to the Russian president for both the imposition of the sanctions, and the manner in which he was treated during the Brisbane G20?
- If in fact it is found that the Ukrainian regime was responsible, will the Australian government seek compensation for victims and reimbursement for the cost of the recovery operation and investigation? Will it seek an official apology from and/or impose economic sanctions on the Ukraine regime in response? Will the relevant members of the Ukrainian regime face possible criminal charges in international courts?
Now there was no response from the Minister’s office despite a follow-up query, which for most may not be surprising. And we can only speculate as to whether I might have received a reply had I been a “60 Minutes” investigative reporter. For others, especially after all the brouhaha surrounding MH-17, the no-reply might also be something of a fashion statement.
But the point herein is this: As with all incidents useful to Western governments, the MH-17 tragedy had served its purpose. There was no political dividend in continuing to flog the proverbial dead horse.
The Perpetual Siren Call of Realpolitik
As brutal as it sounds, the Australian government’s priority was not finding closure for the victims’ families, determining the real cause of the tragedy, or ensuring as far as is possible those responsible faced justice, and it would appear that the Netherlands is no different in this respect.
In response to the additional controversy over the release of a report on the investigation and as to who would actually get to see it, the Dutch Prime Minister’s office issued a statement late November 2014 that said the following, which wasn’t much in words, but spoke volumes in meaning: “….the benefits of disclosing information about the MH17 investigation were outweighed by the risk of damage to the Dutch state’s relations to other states and world bodies.”
Although no one has yet coughed up hard-core evidence against the Kremlin (including it would seem most key figures in the U.S. intelligence community), the Western powers led by Washington have flagrantly exploited the disaster in order to bolster their propaganda campaign against Russia. This is, after all, the Washington Way. Within the geopolitical realm though and in the final analysis, the perpetual siren call of realpolitik dictates that there are more often than not bigger fish to fry.
Moreover, with the possible exception of the consideration the Russian separatists did shoot down the airliner deliberately and did so at the Kremlin’s instigation (a scenario that no one takes seriously), regardless of what happened and who was responsible for the disaster, the Americans themselves have to shoulder most if not all the blame for this lamentable, avoidable tragedy. Their track record of “regime change” is one that is well documented, with the commensurate blowback from such interventions constituting a narrative deep, wide and long enough to justify its own unique classification and index number within the Dewey library catalogue system.
In this context then the MH-17 tragedy appears to be the direct outcome of another of those interventions, collateral damage as a direct consequence of playing the Great Game in the relentless pursuit of empire. For that matter, Ukraine itself may also be destined to take a back seat in the Great Game going forward. This observation was underscored by Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times recently, wherein he reports on an apparent thaw in the U.S.–Russia relationship, one instigated by America.
As for the “60 Minutes” folks, they may or may not have had the best intentions in their fearless efforts to uncover the truth. And they may or may not have covered all the bases and considered all the relevant facts, evidence and issues in delivering their final verdict. If they haven’t then, this would not be the first time by any stretch one of the MSM’s flagship brands has been caught short and found wanting in any or all of the above criteria.
As far as the “60 Minutes” brand itself is concerned, in this respect we only have to recall “Rathergate”. This referred to the Dan Rather imbroglio in 2004 resulting from revelations about George W. Bush’s National Guard duty in the lead-up to the presidential election of that year, “revelations” which were based in part on questionable documents. The botched story it should be remembered culminated in the veteran newsman’s downfall, along with the firing of several lesser known colleagues.
In concluding then, for the moment and for the sake of argument, let’s give the “60 Minutes” crew the benefit of the doubt. They may have approached their investigation with an open mind from the start and then even genuinely believed when they went to air the program they were on the right track. Yet such was the nature of this story that that in the final analysis was never going to be enough. Their findings had to be more than convincing, even more than conclusive; they had to be bulletproof.
For his part Robert Parry has raised sufficient doubts, enough to render their findings significantly less than conclusive if not indeed less than credible. It is difficult then to accept that this high-wire adventure in investigative journalism had less to do with arriving at a truth or reality that most of us could get our heads around. It was more about reinforcing an official narrative – one that has never been explained or evidenced satisfactorily by those who were best positioned, and upon whom it was always incumbent, to do so – and more to do with journalistic one-upmanship, MSM grandstanding and brand refurbishment.
And judging by the singular lack of interest from other MSM outlets in taking up the “60 Minutes” story, even their own colleagues apparently aren’t that convinced they in fact, did get it right. Until and unless this happens, Messrs Usher and Rice and their crew it seems will have two options, neither of which one imagines would be very palatable for Brand “60 Minutes.” They can dig in their heels, “maintain the rage” on their Pat Malone, or stop “mentioning the war.”
Doubtless though, it will be fascinating to see which path they take going forward. Tick, tock!… Tick tock!.. Tick tock!…
The Australian news show “60 Minutes” has angrily responded to my noting discrepancies between the footage that it used to claim it found the spot in eastern Ukraine where a BUK missile launcher passed after the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down last July and the video taken that day.
Earlier in the “60 Minutes” broadcast, the show made a point of overlaying other video from last July 17 with its own footage to demonstrate that it had found the precise locations passed by a truck suspected of hauling the missile battery eastward before the shoot-down. But the program deviated from that pattern regarding the most important video, which the program claimed proved that Russia had provided the missile that shot down MH-17 and that missile battery was making its getaway through Luhansk.
Correspondent Michael Usher of Australia’s “60 Minutes” claims to have found the billboard visible in a video of a BUK missile launcher after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Screen shot from Australia’s “60 Minutes”)
On that crucial point, the program separated the original video of a BUK anti-aircraft missile battery, apparently taken the night after the shoot-down, from the scene in which correspondent Michael Usher claims to have located the same site in Luhansk.
The separation of the two scenes made it difficult for viewers to note the many discrepancies. Indeed, almost nothing in the two scenes matched. In my article about these differences, I posted the two images from the TV show side by side so readers could decide for themselves.
A screen shot of the roadway where the suspected BUK missile battery passes after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Image from Australian “60 Minutes” program)
In the “60 Minutes” program, Usher offered no explanation for why the pattern of using overlays was broken in this one instance. Nor did the program make any effort to explain the multiple discrepancies in the two images.
In reacting to my article, however, the show issued a statement saying that – in deciding where locations were – it relied on calculations by blogger Eliot Higgins “done from his house in Leicester,” England. The show then explained the discrepancies between the earlier video, as posted on social media, and the show’s footage in Luhansk, Ukraine, this way:
“We opted to do our piece to camera as a wide shot showing the whole road system so the audience could get the layout and see which way the Buk was heading. The background in our piece to camera looks different to the original Buk video simply because it was shot from a different angle. The original video was obviously shot from one of the apartments behind, through the trees — which in in summer were in full leaf.”
So, the show is acknowledging that it intentionally deviated from the previous pattern of using overlays to demonstrate how precisely its team had located earlier scenes in question. But it’s simply not true that by offering this “wide shot showing the whole road system” that the audience would “get the layout and see which way the Buk was heading.”
All you see is Usher standing on open ground gesturing to a billboard. How any Australian viewer would get a deeper understanding of the geography of Luhansk from this “wide shot” is a mystery. And you don’t get much sense of “the whole road system” either. In other words, the explanation sounds more like an excuse or a cover-up.
Given the pattern of the rest of the show, wouldn’t it have made more sense to try to recreate the angle of the original video to prove the actual location – as best you could – rather than opting for a different angle and simply relying on Usher to make an assertion? There’s an old saying in journalism, “show, don’t tell,” but this was a classic case of telling, not showing.
And this was not some minor point. This was proof cited by the program to say Russian officials were lying when they placed the scene of the “getaway” BUK launcher in the town of Krasnoarmiis’k, northwest of Donetsk and then under Ukrainian government control. Usher dismissed that Russian claim as a lie and cited the billboard scene in Luhansk as the final proof that Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible for killing 298 people aboard MH-17.
If the show wanted to truly nail down this significant point and was really interested in giving its viewers “the layout” of the scene in Luhansk, wouldn’t it also have made sense to have footage of the apartments where the original video was supposedly shot? That would have provided some explanation for the obvious discrepancies in the two images. Instead, the show simply broke the two video scenes up in a way so a casual viewer wouldn’t be able to detect the discrepancies.
The Australian show also takes issue with me writing that Usher appeared to be standing in “an open field.” The show protests that “he is on a patch of grass by the road” – although it sure looks like an open field in the “wide shot” giving us “the layout.”
The show further protests my characterization of the scene in the original video as “overgrown,” saying “it was simply shot through trees in the foreground.” But note the trees and bushes along the right of the image and in the background. Beyond the positioning of this overgrowth, there appears to be almost nothing comparable between the two images, including the positioning and shapes of the billboards.
Yet, instead of grappling with these differences or trying to recreate the angle of the original video as closely as possible, the show opts for some meaningless “wide shot,” makes it difficult for anyone watching the show to compare the two scenes that flash by fairly quickly, and simply asserts as flat fact something that is still dubious – that Usher and his team had located the right spot.
That strikes me as journalistically negligent if not willfully misleading. But look at the images. You be the judge.
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).
Back on April 27, the Washington Post updated an article about a new poll showing that, despite ongoing multilateral talks, over one-fifth of Republicans currently support a military attack on Iran. The short piece referenced John McCain’s infamous 2007 “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran” quote (sung by a terrible old man to the tune of “Barbara Ann”), but soon after it was published the Post issued the following humble correction and clarification:
Kudos to the Post for forthrightly addressing and correcting such an appalling mistake. It’s comforting that the author is as embarrassed and remorseful as he seems. He should be. Yeeesh. (Still, it’s questionable whether The Beach Boys should ever be described as oldies, in the “Golden Oldies” sense, and even more suspect to place The Beatles in that – or any – category.)
The article, written by Aaron Blake for the paper’s “The Fix” blog, contains another egregious error – and this one has yet to be remedied.
In describing the recent Quinnipiac poll in which bombing Iran is supported by 13% of Americans (including 21% of self-identifying Republicans) over continuing nuclear negotiations, Blake notes that, in official circles, “basically nobody is talking about the United States taking military action to rein in Iran’s nuclear weapons program — at least at this point.”
At this point, it should be perfectly clear to professional journalists and their editors that international intelligence assessments consistently affirm that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. What Iran does have, however, is a nuclear energy program with uranium enrichment facilities, all of which are under international safeguards, strictly monitored and routinely inspected by the IAEA. No move to divert nuclear material to military or weaponization purposes have ever been detected. This is consistently affirmed by U.S., British, Russian, and even Israeli intelligence, as well as the IAEA. In fact, the IAEA itself has said there is “no concrete proof” Iran’s nuclear program “has ever had” a military component.
The poll, albeit misleading and speculative, is more careful in its language than Blake’s summary. Here’s the full question posed to respondents: “Would you prefer military intervention against Iran’s nuclear program or a negotiated settlement to reduce its nuclear potential?”
The conflation of Iran’s nuclear energy program with a nonexistent nuclear weapons program, as Blake demonstrates here, has plagued the news media for years and served to grossly misinform the public on the realities of Iranian intentions and capabilities. Though you wouldn’t know it from Blake’s report, Iran has no “nuclear weapons program” for the United States “to rein in.”
Perhaps more disappointing is that Blake’s offending phrase was published in the first place, especially considering that this precise issue of conflation, journalistic shorthand, and loose language has been specifically addressed before by Blake’s own paper.
In December 2011, Patrick B. Pexton, then The Washington Post‘s ombudsman, challenged the paper’s routinely irresponsible and alarmist reporting on Iran’s nuclear program, writing that the IAEA “does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one,” and warned that such misleading characterizations of such an important issue “can also play into the hands of those who are seeking further confrontation with Iran.”
Others in similar roles at leading media organizations concur. The following month, in January 2012, New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane responded to reader complaints that the paper’s reporting on Iran’s nuclear program was misleading and that the use of shorthand phrases legitimized and perpetuated false narratives. Brisbane agreed.
“I think the readers are correct on this…In this case, the distinction between the two [a nuclear energy program and a nuclear weapons program] is important because the Iranian program has emerged as a possible casus belli,” he wrote.
Days later, National Public Radio ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos weighed in. “Shorthand references are often dangerous in journalism, and listeners are correct to be on the alert for them,” he noted. “Repeated enough as fact – ‘Iran’s nuclear weapons program’ – they take on a life of their own.” Schumacher-Matos added that, at the behest of NPR’s Senior Editor for National Security Bruce Auster, “NPR’s policy is to refer in shorthand to Iran’s ‘nuclear program’ and not ‘nuclear weapons program'” and concluded, “This is a correct formula.”
The next year, in June 2013, The Guardian‘s Readers’ Editor Chris Elliott reached a similar conclusion, agreeing that the use of the term “nuclear weapons program” with regard to Iran is misleading and should be avoided.
In September 2013, after leaving the Post, Pexton chimed in again, doubling down on his assessment that speculating on Iranian intentions had no place in news reporting, especially when there is no evidence of a weapons program.
Offhand, erroneous descriptions repeated constantly in the media clearly go a long way toward turning an evidence-free speculation and hawkish talking point into an assumed fact. Throughout his own post, Blake’s tone is that of disbelief that over a tenth of the America public would want to bomb Iran rather than support diplomacy. Perhaps the problem is that they’ve been reading – and believing – reports like the one Blake himself wrote.
Considering the Post‘s well-known editorial line on Iran and past disregard for the suggestions of its former ombudsman (a position the paper eliminated permanently following Pexton’s departure in early 2013), there is little hope that Blake’s phrase will be corrected.
But, hey, at least they eventually got the Beatles thing right. For chrissake, people.
On Tuesday, May 12, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was asked at a press conference in Sochi Russia, to respond to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s recent statements promising renewed war against Donbass, which were made first on April 30, “The war will end when Ukraine regains Donbass and Crimea,” and which were repeated on May 11th, by his saying, “I have no doubt, we will free the [Donetsk] Airport, because it is our land.” In other words, Poroshenko had repeatedly made clear that he plans a third invasion of Donbass, and, ultimately, also to invade and retake Crimea. (The Western press, however, had not reported any of these threats that were being made by Poroshenko.)
I have not had a chance – I have not read the speech. I haven’t seen any context. I have simply heard about it in the course of today [which would be shocking if true]. But if indeed President Poroshenko is advocating an engagement in a forceful effort at this time, we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy. And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be.
None of this was reported by Western ‘news’ media. Even Russia’s own Sputnik News, which was Russia’s main English-language medium reporting on Kerry’s comment, ignored this shocking assertion by the U.S. Secretary of State contradicting the nominal leader of the Ukrainian Government that the U.S. itself had installed in February 2014.
The Obama Administration now had slammed Poroshenko down on the key issue of whether to resume the war against Ukraine’s former Donbass region, and also slammed him on whether Ukraine should invade Crimea, which is Russian territory and would therefore mean a war against the Russian armed forces. America’s stooge-regime in Kiev was here being publicly taken to the woodshed about the advisability of yet another Ukrainian invasion of Ukraine’s former southeastern breakaway regions, Donbass and, even Crimea.
Sputnik didn’t quote any of this from Kerry. Instead, they headlined, “Kerry: Poroshenko Should ‘Think Twice’ Before Using Force in Donbass,” and they opened their news-report by saying: “Following an extensive six hour discussion between US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and President Putin, Kerry stressed that any Ukrainian efforts to seize the Donetsk Airport through force would violate the Minsk Protocol and would face strict opposition from Washington.” That assertion was true, and important, but all that was quoted from Kerry was the nondescript: “What is important is to make sure that both sides are moving forward in implementing the Minsk accord in its full measure.” Even Kerry’s stunning “think twice” statement, which was actually Washington’s first-ever verbal slam-down of the stooge-regime the U.S. itself had installed in Ukraine in February 2014, in an extremely bloody coup, wasn’t being quoted at all by Sputnik. (Only that two-word phrase was in the headline, but it — and its surrounding passage and context — were entirely absent from the report itself.) Nor was the significance of Kerry’s remark there discussed, at all. Their news-report was a total botch.
Western ‘news’ media were far worse than a botch; they were outright dishonest. Typical was BBC, which headlined on May 12, “Ukraine Crisis: Kerry Has ‘Frank’ Meeting with Putin,” and their article said nothing whatsoever about Kerry’s shocking slam-down of his Ukrainian stooge. To that ‘news’ report was also appended an “Analysis: Bridget Kendall, BBC News, Sochi,” which simply blathered, and concluded, “There was no breakthrough on anything.” That statement was the exact opposite of the truth.
The one good, and, really, brilliant, news-analysis on this important matter, was from the legendary specialist on “the Empire’s [Washington’s] War on Russia,” the anonymous blogger who goes by the name, The Saker. His was not really a news-report, because he, too, failed to quote Kerry’s path-breaking and shocking statement. He didn’t even quote the insignificant squib that Sputnik itself had quoted from Kerry’s remarks. Instead, he merely paraphrased Kerry, which is far less reliable than a quotation, and also far less informative than the packed shocker that Kerry actually delivered. Saker’s paraphrase was far briefer than was Kerry’s statement which is quoted here; it was merely: “Kerry made a few rather interesting remarks, saying that the Minsk-2 Agreement (M2A) was the only way forward and that he would strongly caution Poroshenko against the idea of renewing military operations.” That’s all there was to it. So, The Saker failed to provide a news-report on Kerry’s shocker. But his news-analysis of its significance was superb, and it’s extremely worth reading. That analysis was dated May 13, and it was bannered, “Yet Another Huge Diplomatic Victory for Russia.”
But also there was just a slice of real news in The Saker’s article, when he said, only in passing (as if it were insignificant, which it was not), “Then, there was the rather interesting behavior of [Victoria] Nuland, who was with Kerry’s delegation, she refused to speak to the press and left looking rather unhappy.” Nothing more than that, but that’s plenty. In other words: Nuland, the agent whom President Obama had placed in charge of arranging the February 2014 coup in Ukraine, and of selecting the leader of the junta that would be imposed upon Ukraine (“Yats” Yatsenyuk), and who told the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine what to do and how to do it, was now exceedingly disturbed to find herself overridden at this late date in her Ukrainian escapade, publicly overridden by her own immediate boss, Secretary of State Kerry.
In other words: she is now sidelined. That’s important news, but The Saker there merely hinted at it, and only in passing. So, as a news-report, The Saker’s article was poor but perhaps the best around; but as a news-analysis, it was excellent, and by far the best.
Nuland now knows that she has lost, and that Obama has thrown in the towel on the original plan for Ukraine, which had been for an all-out military conquest of the region, Donbass, where the people had voted over 90% for the man whom Nuland’s team had overthrown on 22 February 2014, Viktor Yanukovych, and so Obama had wanted those people to be either killed or else expelled from Ukraine (so that they’d never again be able to vote in a Ukrainian national election and thus possibly restore a neutralist leadership of Ukraine, such as had existed under the man Obama deposed, Yanukovych).
Consequently, clearly, now, Obama is on-board with the “Plan B” for Ukraine, which Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel had put into place, the Minsk II Agreement, which brought about the present ceasefire, which now has become clearly the utter (even accepted by Kerry) capitulation of Obama’s Plan A on Ukraine, which plan Nuland had been carrying out. Kerry’s public statement there was a public slap in the face to his own #2 official on Ukraine; and it could not have been asserted by him if he were not under Obama’s instruction that the previous plan, to exterminate or drive out all the residents of Donbass, was no longer worth trying, and that the Hollande-Merkel plan would be America’s fall-back position.
Obama’s message in this, through Kerry, to Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, and indirectly also to Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yatsenyuk (the leader whom Nuland herself had selected), is: we’ll back you only as long as you accept that you have failed our military expectations and that we will be stricter with you in the future regarding how you spend our military money. We’re getting in line now behind the Hollande-Merkel peace plan for Ukraine.
Dmitriy Yarosh, and the other outright Nazis who had been threatening to overthrow Poroshenko if he doesn’t renew the war against Donbass and seize Crimea; Dmitriy Yarosh, who was the man who had led the Ukrainian coup for the U.S., and whose thugs had dressed as Yanukovych’s security forces when gunning down both police and demonstrators in the February 2014 coup, in order for Yanukovych to become blamed for the bloodshed on that occasion; is now, in effect, being told: if you will try another coup, this time to overthrow our own stooges in Ukraine, then you’re finished, Mr. Yarosh. Don’t do it.
Merkel and Hollande thus won. Putin had decidedly won. Obama and the Nazis he had empowered in Ukraine have now, clearly, been defeated. But the mess that Obama’s people have created in Ukraine by their coup and subsequent ethnic-cleansing to eliminate the residents of Donbass, will take decades, if ever, to repair.
Western ‘news’ media can cover it all up, but they can’t change this reality, which, increasingly as time goes by, will expose the press’s failure to have even reported on this historically important U.S. coup in Ukraine and its ultimate failure. As a story about the press, it is about yet another system-wide press-deceit upon the public, comparable to their ‘news coverage’ of ‘Saddam’s WMD,’ and other lies, in 2002 and 2003.
More and more people are coming to know what utter rot the Western press are. The news-report that you are now reading here, has been submitted to all of them, but they’ll probably all reject it like they’ve all refused to report the truth that it and its predecessors report and reported about Obama’s Nazi (i.e., racist-fascist) takeover of Ukraine. How the Western press will get out of their cover-ups and outright lies, yet again, is hard to imagine. But maybe they’ll just not report it at all — yet again. Obama has thrown in the towel on Ukraine, and still the press hasn’t yet reported it. But now I have, and you’re reading it here, perhaps for the first time, even though Kerry’s sensational remark was made a week ago.
Thus, major historical events (like Kerry’s statement here) occur, in broad daylight, which never were even reported by the Western press — they were instead covered-up, not covered at all, by ‘our’ ‘free’ press.
Ayelet Shaked, justice minister in the new Israeli government, gets a pass today in a “Saturday Profile” by Jodi Rudoren. Although Shaked is noted for her extremist rightwing views, it seems she faced no challenges in her interview with The New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief. The story we find here is all about style and personality.
Rudoren makes a quick run through some of the most disturbing elements of Shaked’s agenda, noting that she favors annexing most of the West Bank, deporting African asylum seekers, limiting the power of the Supreme Court, punishing Israeli groups that criticize the occupation and creating laws that enshrine the rights of Jews over other groups.
There is no discussion of what this means for the future of Israelis and Palestinians apparently no attempt to engage the new justice minister over these issues. We learn that Shaked has drawn heated criticism (some of it sexist) and that she is “the most contentious appointment” in the new government, but we get no deeper look into her motivations.
Only one of her critics, the Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, is identified by name in the article. She is quoted briefly as saying that Shaked’s appointment is a “threat to peace and security” and “generates a culture of hate and lawlessness,” but Rudoren fails to examine the factors that inspire these fears.
Instead, the focus here is on Shaked’s reaction. We learn that she responded to the criticism that accompanied her appointment with a “this-too-shall-pass shrug,” a characteristic attitude according to those close to her. They have called her a “robot” and “the computer,” because she is not given to emotion. Her style is analytical and methodical, Rudoren tells us, and she is “disciplined” and “a doer.”
We also learn that Shaked studied ballet as a child, joined the Scouts and did well in math. In the same paragraph, as if this were one more dab of color in her resume, Rudoren informs us that Shaked served as an instructor in the Israeli army’s Golani Brigade in Hebron and “grew close to the religious Zionist settlers.” Her experience there “cemented her stance on the right.”
This bit of information calls for more discussion. Hebron settlers are noted for their violence against the indigenous Palestinians, and it would serve readers well to know why Shaked identified with them so closely.
Shaked is a member of the extremist Jewish Home party that opposes any kind of autonomy for Palestinians. One of its members is the racist rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, who has said that Palestinians “are beasts; they are not human” and that “a Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile even if he is a homosexual.” (Rabbi Dahan has been named as head of the Civil Administration, the Israeli army agency in charge of the West Bank.)
This is the company that Shaked keeps, but the extremism of her party is off topic in this article. Although we get hints of her ultraconservative stance in the story, Rudoren skips over these clues quickly, preferring to dwell on style and trivia.
Rudoren should be asking what Shaked’s appointment means for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and what it means for dissident Palestinians and Jews in Israel, but this not in her sights. Her aim here, it seems, is to conceal the grim reality of Israel’s racist government, to make light of an ominous turn in Israeli society.
Once again, The New York Times is taking up the issue of divestment debates on college campuses, subjecting readers to yet another discussion of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and how the boycott movement affects student feelings.
For the third time in as many months, the Times has published a prominently displayed article on the subject. The latest is titled “Campus Debates on Israel Drive a Wedge Between Jews and Minorities;” it appears on page 1 of the print edition and notes that many minority organizations are now supporting Palestinian rights and this “drives a wedge between many Jewish and minority students.”
It is difficult to understand why the Times gives such play to this story, which rehashes material from earlier ones centered on debates at UCLA and Stanford, but all the articles take aim at the divestment effort. The previous ones attempted to connect the boycott movement (known as BDS for boycott, divestment and sanctions) with anti-Semitism (see TimesWarp posts here and here); this one tells us that the movement is divisive.
Each of the stories is notable for avoiding the substance of the campus debates. In the latest article, for instance, we learn only that students are objecting to “what they see as Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians” and that “they have cast the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a powerful force’s oppression of a displaced group.”
Readers would never know that students are motivated by the facts on the ground: the brutality of the occupation, the horrific attacks on Gaza, and a racist system that a South African jurist recently called “infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of South Africa.”
The Times obscures these facts in its daily reports from Israel and in its discussions of BDS, focusing instead on abstractions and political maneuverings. It attempts to change the subject from the very real Israeli oppression of Palestinians to talk of campus strife over the issue.
Meanwhile, it ignores another, more pernicious, BDS debate unfolding in the legislative bodies from Congress to state assemblies and senates. In these halls, Israel supporters are promoting attempts to outlaw and rein in BDS.
The U.S. House and Senate recently passed amendments authorizing negotiators for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership bill to push for efforts that would normalize trade with Israeli settlements on Palestinian land (even though these have been declared illegal under international law), effectively erase the boundaries between the West Bank and Israel and punish companies that resist collaboration with the occupation.
The House amendment openly identifies BDS as a target, saying that negotiators should discourage “politically motivated efforts to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel.” One observer has noted that some of the language in the amendments is identical to that in an Israeli bill adopted in 2011.
State legislatures, such as those in Tennessee and Indiana, are taking aim at BDS, with bills declaring that the movement is anti-Semitic and requiring state pension funds to withdraw money from companies that boycott Israel. The Tennessee bill (and the Congressional amendment) includes passages taken directly from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2014 speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
There is something askew here: The Times finds the BDS debate newsworthy when it takes place on college campuses but not worth mentioning when it shows up in legislative bodies, even at the federal level. It may be that such coverage would bring inconvenient facts to light—Israeli breaches of international law, for instance, and European restrictions on trade with settlements.
We can trace a link from Israel to lobbyists in the United States and from the lobbyists to the halls of Congress and state legislatures. It appears to connect also with The New York Times, where we find some of the familiar techniques for protecting Israel in play: avoidance and diversion.
Thus Times readers, uninformed about the full extent of Israeli atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territories (and within Israel proper), are directed away from the facts on the ground. They are sidetracked into discussions of anti-Semitism or divisiveness, all part of an effort to take the heat off Israel.
Today, the NY Times published what was essentially an unexpurgated series of IDF intelligence reports claiming Hezbollah had taken over a southern Lebanese town and turned it into a fortress bristling with fortifications. The story, written by Isabel Kershner, features photos and descriptions of intelligence data received directly from the army intelligence unit, AMAN.
At no point in the story does Kershner offer any skepticism about the substance of the material or its origins. Nor does she entertain any thoughts about the ultimate purpose of releasing the material to her. As I read the story, the biggest nagging question was: how did she vet this before publication? Did she get someone to visit the village to confirm details? Did she ask a military analyst or consultant to authenticate the documents proffered her?
The only indication in the report that these issues may’ve been considered is a statement that none of the information “could be independently verified.” You’re damn straight they couldn’t be verified. But how hard did you try?
There is an interview conducted by the Times’ Lebanon correspondent Anne Barnard with a figure representing Hezbollah. He refuses to address the specifics of the intelligence information and only affirms the Islamist movement’s determination to protect Lebanese sovereignty from Israeli attack.
I tweeted these questions to Jodi Rudoren, the paper’s Israel bureau chief, and she replied that since it was not her story I should contact Kershner directly. Given that she’s Kershner’s boss, I found the response odd.
We should also remember that Kershner’s husband is former Jerusalem Post IDF correspondent Hirsh Goodman. He is a researcher at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank deeply connected to the Israeli military and intelligence apparatus.
I should make clear that I’m not taking any position on the accuracy of the report or the IDF documents. Instead, I’m most disturbed by the process used in putting this story together. The IDF and Israeli intelligence in general is well-known for putting forth false or fraudulent claims. Any Israeli journalist who is half-way honest knows this and would freely concede it. It is incumbent on any self-respecting journalist to authenticate such data before accepting it at face value. I don’t see any indication from the story itself that any of this was done.
Another critical aspect of this story you won’t find mentioned by Kershner is that Hezbollah is a Lebanese resistance movement whose goal, at least concerning Israel, is to defend the nation’s sovereignty. Yes, we can argue about its involvement in Syria diverging from this agenda, but aside from a few skirmishes Hezbollah is not fighting Israel in the Syrian Golan. Not to mention, that the IDF is complaining about Hezbollah fortifying a Lebanese village from attack by Israel. In other words, Hezbollah’s purpose is to defend Lebanese territory. How it does this is not something Israel has a right to complain about.
In the article itself, the IDF sources make crystal clear that their military strategy features an invasion of Lebanon. In other words, the Israeli army is conceding that it intends to violate Lebanese sovereignty. Yet on the other hand it denies Lebanese the right to defend against such an invasion. The army also makes clear Israel’s intent to kill civilians, as it has in numerous invasions and occupation over the decades. The difference this time around is that the IDF is warning beforehand that it intends to do this. It is telling the world that we will do to Lebanon what we did to Gaza. There will be no mercy. No punches pulled. It will unleash the full fury of its arsenal. Civilians will be treated no different than combatants.
In the midst of the massive civilian death toll it will trot out Kershner’s stenography and say: See, we told you so. We warned you that Hezbollah was using civilians as human shields. We warned you in no less a venue than the NY Times that we would have no choice but to decimate the militants along with the civilians. Now, you have no right to complain that we did precisely what we told you we would do.
The reporter quotes her intelligence source making yet another mendacious claim about the history of guerrilla warfare:
“Historically, armed forces have separated themselves from the population, in uniform,” the senior Israeli military official said. “This is not the case here or in Gaza.” He accused Hezbollah of cynically using civilians.
This is not only utterly false in general historical terms (remember the 250,000 dead in Leningrad or the two Warsaw Ghetto uprisings?), it’s false in terms of Israel’s own history. The Palmach and other Jewish resistance groups made extensive use of civilian infrastructure, including synagogues, to hide weapons caches. Military forces use whatever advantage they can muster which benefit their strategic position. If the IDF was in the position of Hezbollah it would do nothing different. In such a case, no one could argue Israel didn’t have the right to do so as long as it was defending its territory from invasion, as Hezbollah is doing. … Full article
By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | May 13, 2015
World leaders have long known that in order to stay in power, scaring the populace is a vital ingredient in any campaign. Look to the March, 2015 victory of Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu, who fanned the fears of his racist population, claiming that ‘Arabs’ were going to the polls in droves. In the United States, for decades whichever candidate was more successful at stoking the flaming fear of communism glided to easy victory. And as Canada and the U.S. approach election season, with Canada’s election five months away, and the long, drawn out campaign for the White House a tortuous eighteen months away, it is now, apparently, time to begin fanning the fears of what is generally called ‘radical Islam’.
A CNN report of May 11 is headlined thusly: ‘Retired Generals: Be Afraid of ISIS’. The article refers to President Barack Obama as “naïve”; discusses “the ever-growing numbers of victims of radical Islam in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia”, and condemns “the frightfully slow pace America’s commander-in-chief is currently allowing our military and intelligence community to take action against both ISIS and its progenitor, al Qaeda….”
It is interesting that people who make their living from war are called upon to comment on whether war should continue or not. The writers of the CNN article are Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; retired Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC, and congressional counterterrorism adviser Michael S. Smith II. Interestingly, these gentleman are co-founders of a ‘strategic advisory firm’ called Kronos Advisory. A small quotation from their website puts their fear-mongering into perspective:
“Increased global economic competition among rising powers could also exacerbate issues such as these. Indeed, as lucrative opportunities lure companies from nations with limited defense and intelligence resources into ungoverned areas and failed states the potential flashpoints for conflict will multiply.
“To manage increasingly complex international affairs, security officials require more robust decision-support solutions that leverage high-level subject matter expertise and innovative thought leadership in the areas of irregular warfare, geostrategy, and associated policy development. And history tells us human intelligence will be central to any successful programs that seek to advance American and allied interests in this volatile environment.
“From subject matter expertise with transnational extremist networks, to predictive analytic capabilities that can help officials identify and understand future challenges before they materialize, to strong relationships with lawmakers committed to helping defense and intelligence organizations achieve their missions, Kronos Advisory’s global network can deliver a range of vital resources national security managers require to more fully understand their operational environment — and define it.”
And as long as there is war, there can be little doubt that the costly services of Kronos Advisory will be in demand.
While the words from the Kronos Advisory website are self-explanatory, there is one small area that requires particular focus: “relationships with lawmakers committed to helping defense and intelligence organizations achieve their missions”. And now we get to the crux of the matter. Messrs. Flynn, Livingston and Smith all had prominent roles in the government, and now are capitalizing on the ‘strong relationships’ with those members of Congress who rely on the so-called defense industry to fund their campaigns. These members of Congress will keep the war machine working, thus keeping the military lobby happy, providing endless perquisites for the government officials, and keeping businesses such as Kronos Advisory very busy. Where in this is there anything about what’s best for the people?
Let us take just a moment to look at the three ‘frightening’ expressions quoted above. Mr. Obama, these august businessmen say, is naïve. Perhaps he has, naively, not yet sought out their services and expertise, which may have had a lot to do with their motivation for writing for CNN. Secondly, they state with alarm “the ever-growing numbers of victims of radical Islam in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia”, not mentioning that most of those victims die as a result of U.S.-provided bombs. Lastly, they bemoan “the frightfully slow pace America’s commander-in-chief is currently allowing our military and intelligence community to take action against both ISIS and its progenitor, al Qaeda…”, hoping, perhaps, for a wider, more comprehensive war which will require their services to a far greater extent, thus increasing their bottom line, at the expense of the blood of people around the world.
Meanwhile, north of the border, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a short time ago considered vulnerable in this year’s election, said this during a visit to Canadian troops in Kuwait: “Make no mistake: by fighting this enemy here you are protecting Canadians at home. Because this evil knows no borders”. One is reminded of a statement made on September 12, 2008 by then Alaska Governor and Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, when bidding an official farewell to soldiers on their way to Iraq. She said that their mission was to “defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.” Any connect between Iraq and the September 11 attacks against the U.S. had long since been debunked, but what is this to Mrs. Palin? When the flag can be waved in a patriotic display, what do facts have to do with anything?
The same is true with Mr. Harper’s bizarre statement. The indiscriminate killing of Muslims doesn’t protect ‘Canadians at home’. It has, indeed, the opposite effect. A ‘Tweet’ sent in 2012 by a lawyer in Yemen to Mr. Obama applies as well to Mr. Harper: “Dear Mr. Obama, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda.” So Canada, continuing to disgrace itself on the world stage, follows along with U.S. mass murder in the Middle East.
But jingoism sells, whether the original, U.S. version, or the copy that has now apparently been successfully exported to Canada. ‘They’ are bad; ‘we’ are good, and the only thing the ‘good’ people can do is kill the ‘bad’ people. Mr. Harper is positioning himself for victory by framing his campaign in the tried and true ‘us vs. them’ model that has long been successful in the U.S. As the U.S. election campaigning ramps up, with more and more clowns entering the two-ring circus known as the Democratic and Republican primaries, we can watch the candidates from both parties fall all over themselves to prove that they want to kill more of the ‘bad’ people, and will do it longer and more effectively, than any of their opponents. No doubt they will be assisted by Kronos Advisory.
What will future generations say? Will they look upon the current world situation as today we might look upon Neanderthal society, observing the way primitive man lived? Will they comment intellectually on the little value that human life had for twenty-first century society, and the way that society worked hard to develop more effective ways to eradicate it? Will they marvel at how close the population came to extinction through war?
This is the legacy we are leaving; this is what our descendants will say about us.
Sadly, with the media corporate-owned, and the U.S. education system only deteriorating, there seems to be little hope for any significant change in the near future.
Pamela Geller needs to be exposed for what she is
Personally, I believe that the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment is the bedrock freedom granted by the Constitution of the United States and as long as someone is not using that right explicitly to call for violence against someone else he or she should be free to say anything, even if it is deliberately offensive or calculated to provoke a hostile response. Pamela Geller, who recently staged the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland Texas that resulted in two deaths, would no doubt say the same thing. But in reality Geller is a hypocrite. She is only referring to her own personal “freedom” to say what she wants to inflame passions regarding a religious group that she despises. When Muslims try to use the same “freedom” to express their own concerns over speech that they consider blasphemous Geller dismisses their appeals as a ruse to enable the introduction of Shariah law.
Geller is a wealthy Manhattan-based Jewish widow who is the founder and editor of what until recently was called the Atlasshrugs.com website as well as president of Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). She first came into prominence in 2010 when she helped spearhead the successful campaign to block the construction of the proposed Park51 Islamic Center that she inaccurately described as a “victory mosque” that would dishonor the victims of the terrorist attack and constitute a second wave of 9/11 , persistently conflating Islam in general with what she refers to as “barbarism” and terror.
In 2011 Pamela Geller campaigned to block the U.S. government’s licensing of al-Jazeera America, which she refers to as “Terror TV,” revealing the insincerity of her espousal of free speech when the speech does not conform to her agenda. She has also been one of the leading promoters of the palpably ridiculous assertion that “Fundamentalist Islam wants Shariah to replace the U. S. Constitution and fundamentally transform America,” a theme that has unfortunately been picked up by a number of Republican politicians. She also believes that anyone who bows to pressure and avoids cartooning or lampooning Mohammed is ipso facto conforming to Islamic law.
More recently Geller and AFDI have been behind a series of poster campaigns on urban transit trains and buses in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The posters have featured the World Trade Center burning alongside a Quran verse advocating terror, a call to support civilization (Israel) against barbarism (Jihad), and the message that “killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah.” A poster that ran in Washington featured Hitler meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem with the caption “Islamic Jew Hatred: it’s in the Quran.” An ad in San Francisco showed journalist James Foley just before he was beheaded by ISIS. When local transportation boards resist placing the posters on their vehicles and in their stations because of the highly politicized bigoted views they reflect AFDI takes them to court to force them to cooperate.
There is little ambiguity or subtlety in what Geller does and her ten year track record reveals clearly that she wallows in hate. She believes that when Muslims pray five times a day they are actually cursing Christians and Jews. Her Mohammed art exhibition featured cartoons showing a malevolent looking founder of Islam with a roll of toilet paper on his head and pants pulled down to reveal his buttocks while pissing on “Freedom of Speech.” Or if that does not leave one laughing, there is another showing Mohammed impaled through his anus on a pencil labeled “truth” and still another featuring a grinning Prophet riding a unicycle while juggling five dismembered heads. The caption reads “Religion of Peace.”
Geller claims to be an expert on Islam, but she has never studied it formally and cannot read or speak Arabic. She cherry picks from translations of the Quran and Hadith texts to find material that matches her agenda, aided and abetted by her colleague Robert Spencer, who also claims expertise without any language skills or serious study. Both have benefited materially from their bigotry and Geller’s hypocrisy is on display through her citation of the horrors contained in Islamic texts presumably while knowing full well that it is just as easy to find plenty of bloodshed and even genocide in the Hebrew Bible.
Though strident and essentially humorless, Geller, who decries living in an age “where evil is good, and good is evil,” admits to the nature of her particular obsession, jokingly accepting that she has been labeled as a “racist-Islamophobic-anti-Muslim-bigot.” She is also perhaps not surprisingly a leading advocate for Israel, conceding that she sees the world through the “prism of Israel” and noting along the way that “… Jew hatred is a religious imperative in Islam.”
Geller is independently wealthy which no doubt provided seed money for her endeavors, but her efforts are also supported by a number of pro-Israel groups and individuals, including several donors that are regarded as relatively mainstream. That leads to the plausible surmise that while many Jewish organizations and wealthy individuals keep their distance from Geller at least some of them are secretly supportive of her. In 2013 AFDI received nearly one million dollars in reported donations, $400,000 of which was spent to oppose “…capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism.” The organization claims on its website that donations to it are tax deductible, which, if correct, would suggest that it is an IRS 501(c)3 educational foundation, though the site does not explicitly make that claim. If it is true, only donors contributing beyond a certain level have to be identified in the annual tax filing, which means that contributors are effectively secret.
Ironically, many of the folks that Pamela marches in step with are themselves opposed to free speech and are inclined to support draconian legal sanctions against “hate speech,” similar to those in place in a number of European countries, including France. They like the concept of laws against language that denigrates races, ethnic groups or religions because in practice the laws are frequently only enforced if one says something about Jews or Judaism, which is what they were really designed to protect. They are particularly active in the United States currently seeking to shut down any criticism of Israel at universities, claiming that it makes Jewish students “uncomfortable” or “threatened.”
Some European hate laws threaten fines and imprisonment if one denies or even questions details relating to the holocaust while in Canada, legislation has been proposed that criminalizes any criticism of Israel, conflating it with anti-Semitism, which is a hate crime. As ever, laws reflect who is important and let’s face it, no one in Europe or Canada really cares about powerless Muslims or increasingly marginalized Christians, but confronting powerful Jewish organizations is another thing altogether.
Whether Geller hoped to provoke a violent incident in Texas will have to remain unknowable, but the prepositioning of $10,000 worth of armed security including SWAT units for an event including only 200 attendees rather suggests that the intention was to craft a gathering in such a way as to bait local Muslims into doing something stupid. And one has to wonder at the honesty of Geller’s “free speech” agenda in any case. If some group were staging a public event with a $10,000 prize for whoever could shit on a Torah scroll in the most creative fashion Geller would be unlikely to approve of such an exercise of First Amendment rights.
There are, unfortunately, all too many people not unlike Pamela Geller who regard Muslims as vermin. That they proliferate in spite of all evidence that American Muslims are overwhelmingly peaceful and make good citizens invites the inevitable chicken and egg metaphor: what came first the Gellers preaching hatred or the hatred itself providing fertile ground for the Gellers?
Certainly the example set by Israel differs little from Geller except in that it is even more extreme. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to appoint far right Jewish Home Party activist Ayelet Shaked justice minister in his new government. In 2014 she recommended the genocide of Palestinians, asserting in a July 1 st Facebook post that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy.” She called for their destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” Women should in particular be killed as they produce the “little snakes,” i.e. Palestinian children. Her future colleague in government, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, who will head the “Civil Administration” of the occupied West Bank has described Palestinians as “…beasts, they are not human” and has stated his belief that “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.”
As free speech is a precious commodity, one should not allow Pamela Geller to define it. She can say whatever she wants to say but that does not mean that she bears no responsibility for the consequences of her action while the media and public should never give her a pass that legitimizes her message that all Muslims are homicidal maniacs intent on destroying the United States and, inevitably, Israel.
After the Garland Texas incident Geller was featured all across the media explaining herself and propagating her message. Most often she was treated with kid gloves by ignorant interviewers who apparently believed she had a right to be heard and that they ought not interfere with her ability to do so. She should indeed have the freedom to tell her story but the media also has an obligation to challenge views that are both ugly and bigoted to allow the public to hear another side to the Geller rant. It is unimaginable that if Geller were using her characteristic coarse language to describe either Jews or Christians that she would have been provided with any forum at all, but apparently when it comes to Islam the rules are somehow different and the freedom to express abhorrent views becomes the norm rather than the exception.