The Hague-based International People’s Tribunal has ruled that the Indonesian regime that replaced Indonesian President Sukarno committed crimes against humanity in 1965. The governments of Australia, Britain, and the United States have also been pronounced guilty as complicit partners in the massacre of 500,000 to 1000,000 people or more in Indonesia. People were murdered in Indonesia due to their principles, political ideology, ethnic backgrounds, and opposition to foreign influence. Albeit the ruling is an important historical acknowledgment, the assistance that the Australian, British, and US governments provided to the coup and played in the massacres is not a secret.
Asia-Pacific Research presents these excerpts from the Australian journalist John Pilger’s book The New Rulers of the World, which was published by Verso in 2002, in the interest of providing the historical background about the massacres that took place in Indonesia. Reading them will educate one on the despicable and criminal roles that Australia, Britain, and the US played. ”There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust,” for example Pilger writes. In his work John Pilger also notes that the US was directly involved in the operations of the death squads and helped compile the lists of people to be murdered while the Australian, British, and US media were used as propaganda tools to whitewash the coup and bloodbaths in Indonesia. A key point, however, that is emphasizes is that the underlying economic motivations and plunder hidden behind the ideological discourse of the Cold War that really motivated the massacres in Indonesia. – Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Asia-Pacific Research Editor, 22 July 2016.
Indonesians preparing to die in a mass grave
Excerpts from The New Rulers of the World (Verso)
John Pilger, 2002
… according to a CIA memorandum, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and President John Kennedy had agreed to ‘liquidate President Sukarno, depending on the situation and available opportunities’. The CIA author added, ‘It is not clear to me whether murder or overthrow is intended by the word liquidate.’
Sukarno was a populist, the founder of modern Indonesia and of the non-aligned movement of developing countries, which he hoped would forge a genuine ‘third way’ between the spheres of the two superpowers. In 1955, he convened the ‘Asia-Africa Conference’ in the Javanese hill city of Bandung. It was the first time the leaders of the developing world, the majority of humanity, had met to forge common interests: a prospect that alarmed the western powers, especially as the vision and idealism of nonalignment represented a potentially popular force that might seriously challenge neo-colonialism. The hopes invested in such an unprecedented meeting are glimpsed in the faded tableaux and black-and-white photographs in the museum at Bandung and in the forecourt of the splendid art deco Savoy Hotel, where the following Bandung Principles are displayed:
I – Respect for fundamental human rights and the principles of the United Nations Charter.
2 – Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
3 – The recognition of the equality of all peoples.
4 – The settlement of disputes by peaceful means.
Sukarno could be a democrat and a demagogue. For a time, Indonesia was a parliamentary democracy, then became what he called a ‘guided democracy’. He encouraged mass trade unions and peasant, women’s and cultural movements. Between 1959 and 1965, more than 15 million people joined political parties or affiliated mass organisations that were encouraged to challenge British and American influence in the region. With 3 million members, the PKI was the largest communist party in the world outside the Soviet Union and China. According to the Australian historian Harold Crouch, ‘the PKI had won widespread support not as a revolutionary party but as an organisation defending the interests of ‘the poor within the existing system’. It was this popularity, rather than any armed insurgency, that alarmed the Americans. Like Vietnam to the north, Indonesia might ‘go communist’ .
In 1990, the American investigative journalist Kathy Kadane revealed the extent of secret American collaboration in the massacres of 1965-66 which allowed Suharto to seize the presidency. Following a series of interviews with former US officials, she wrote, ‘They systematically compiled comprehensive lists of communist operatives. As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the Indonesian army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured.’ One of those interviewed was Robert J Martens, a political officer in the US embassy in Jakarta. ‘It was a big help to the army,’ he said. ‘They probably killed a lot of people and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.’ Joseph Lazarsky, the deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta, said that confirmation of the killings came straight from Suharto’s headquarters. ‘We were getting a good account in Jakarta of who was being picked up,’ he said. ‘The army had a “shooting list” of about 4,000 or 5,000 people. They didn’t have enough goon squads to zap them all, and some individuals were valuable for interrogation. The infrastructure [of the PKI] was zapped almost immediately. We knew what they were doing . . . Suharto and his advisers said, if you keep them alive you have to feed them.’
Having already armed and equipped much of the army, Washington secretly supplied Suharto’s troops with a field communications network as the killings got under way. Flown in at night by US air force planes based in the Philippines, this was state-of-the-art equipment, whose high frequencies were known to the CIA and the National Security Agency advising President Johnson. Not only did this allow Suharto’s generals to co-ordinate the killings, it meant that the highest echelons of the US administration were listening in and that Suharto could seal off large areas of the country. Although there is archive film of people being herded into trucks and driven away, a single fuzzy photograph of a massacre is, to my knowledge, the only pictorial record of what was Asia’s holocaust.
The American Ambassador in Jakarta was Marshall Green, known in the State Department as ‘the coupmaster’. Green had arrived in Jakarta only months earlier, bringing with him a reputation for having masterminded the overthrow of the Korean leader Syngman Rhee, who had fallen out with the Americans. When the killings got under way in Indonesia, manuals on student organising, written in Korean and English, were distributed by the US embassy to the Indonesian Student Action Command (KAMI), whose leaders were sponsored by the CIA.
On October 5, 1965, Green cabled Washington on how the United States could ‘shape developments to our advantage’. The plan was to blacken the name of the PKI and its ‘protector’, Sukarno. The propaganda should be based on ‘[spreading] the story of the PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality’. At the height of the bloodbath, Green assured General Suharto: ‘The US is generally sympathetic with and admiring of what the army is doing.” As for the numbers killed, Howard Federspiel, the Indonesia expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research in 1965, said, ‘No one cared, as long as they were communists, that they were being butchered. No one was getting very worked up about it.’
The Americans worked closely with the British, the reputed masters and inventors of the ‘black’ propaganda admired and adapted by Joseph Goebbels in the 1930s. Sir Andrew Gilchrist, the Ambassador in Jakarta, made his position clear in a cable to the Foreign Office: ‘I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change.’ With more than ‘a little shooting’ under way, and with no evidence of the PKI’s guilt, the embassy advised British intelligence headquarters in Singapore on the line to be taken, with the aim of ‘weakening the PKI permanently’ .
Suitable propaganda themes might be: PKI brutality in murdering Generals and [Foreign Minister] Nasution’s daughter . . . PKI subverting Indonesia as agents of foreign Communists . . . But treatment will need to be subtle, e.g. (a) all activities should be strictly unattributable, (b) British participation or co-operation should be carefully concealed.
Within two weeks, an office of the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department (IRD) had opened in Singapore. The IRD was a top-secret, cold war propaganda unit headed by Norman Reddaway, one of Her Majesty’s most experienced liars. It would be salutary for journalists these days to study the critical role western propaganda played then, as it does now, in shaping the news. Indeed, Reddaway and his colleagues manipulated the press so expertly that he boasted to Gilchrist in a letter marked ‘secret and personal’ that the story he had promoted – that Sukarno’s continued rule would lead to a communist takeover – ‘went all over the world and back again’ . He described how an experienced Fleet Street journalist agreed ‘to give exactly your angle on events in his article … . i.e. that this was a kid glove coup without butchery.’
Roland Challis, the BBC’s South-East Asia correspondent, was a particular target of Reddaway, who claimed that the official version of events could be ‘put almost instantly back to Indonesia via the BBC’. Prevented from entering Indonesia along with other foreign journalists, Challis was unaware of the extent of the slaughter. ‘It was a triumph for western propaganda,’ he told me. ‘My British sources purported not to know what was going on, but they knew what the American plan was. There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust. It was only much later that we learned the American embassy was supplying names and ticking them off as they were killed. There was a deal, you see. In establishing the Suharto regime, the involvement of the IMF and the World Bank was part of it. Sukarno had kicked them out; now Suharto would bring them back. That was the deal.’
With Sukarno now virtually powerless and ill, and Suharto about to appoint himself acting president, the American press reported the Washington-backed coup not as a great human catastrophe, but in terms of the new economic advantages. The massacres were described by Time as ‘The West’s Best News in Asia’. A headline in US News and World Report read: ‘Indonesia: Hope . . . where there was once none’. The renowned New York Times columnist James Reston celebrated ‘A gleam of light in Asia’ and wrote a kid-glove version that he had clearly been given. The Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, who was visiting the US, offered a striking example of his sense of humour: ‘With 500,000 to a million communist sympathisers knocked off,’ he said approvingly, ‘I think it’s safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.’
Holt’s remark was an accurate reflection of the complicity of the Australian foreign affairs and political establishment in the agony of its closest neighbour. The Australian embassy in Jakarta described the massacres as a ‘cleansing operation’. The Australian Ambassador, KCO Shann, enthused to Canberra that the Indonesian army was ‘refreshingly determined to do over the PKI’, adding that the generals had spoken approvingly of the reporting on Radio Australia, which he described as ‘a bit dishonest’.’ In the Prime Minister’s Department, officials considered supporting ‘any measures to assist the Indonesian army … cope with the internal situation’.
In February 1966, [British] Ambassador Gilchrist wrote a report on the scale of the massacres based on the findings of the Swedish Ambassador, who had toured central and eastern Java with his Indonesian wife and had been able to speak to people out of earshot of government officials. Gilchrist wrote to the Foreign Office: ‘The Ambassador and I had discussed the killings before he left [on the tour] and he had found my suggested figure of 400,000 quite incredible. His enquiries have led him to reconsider it a very serious under-estimate. A bank manager in Surabaya with twenty employees said that four had been removed one night and beheaded . . . A third of a spinning factory’s technicians, being members of a Communist union, had been killed … The killings in Bali had been particularly monstrous. In certain areas, it was felt that not enough people [emphasis in the original] had been killed.’
On the island of Bali, the ‘reorientation’ described by Prime Minister Holt meant the violent deaths of at least 80,000 people, although this is generally regarded as a conservative figure. The many western, mostly Australian, tourists who have since taken advantage of cheap package holidays to the island might reflect that beneath the car parks of several of the major tourist hotels are buried countless bodies.
The distinguished campaigner and author Carmel Budiardjo, an Englishwoman married to a tapol and herself a former political prisoner, returned to Indonesia in 2000 and found ‘the trauma left by the killings thirty-five years ago still gripping many communities on the island’. She described meeting, in Denpasar, fifty people who had never spoken about their experiences before in public. ‘One witness,’ she wrote, ‘who was 20 years old at the time calmly told us how he had been arrested and held in a large cell by the military, 52 people in all, mostly members of mass organisations from nearby villages. Every few days, a batch of men was taken out, their hands tied behind their backs and driven off to be shot. Only two of the prisoners survived . . . Another witness, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian, gave testimony about the killing of 103 people, some as young as 15. In this case, the people were not arrested but simply taken from their homes and killed, as their names were ticked off a list.’
‘In the early sixties,’ he said, ‘the pressure on Indonesia to do what the Americans wanted was intense. Sukarno wanted good relations with them, but he didn’t want their economic system. With America, that is never possible. So he became an enemy. All of us who wanted an independent country, free to make our own mistakes, were made the enemy. They didn’t call it globalisation then; but it was the same thing. If you accepted it, you were America’s friend. If you chose another way, you were given warnings, and if you didn’t comply, hell was visited on you. But I am back; I am well; I have my family. They didn’t win.’
Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s, described the terror in Indonesia from 1965 – 66 as a ‘model operation’ for the American-run coup that got rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later. ‘The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders,’ he wrote, ‘[just like] what happened in Indonesia in 1965.’ He says Indonesia was also the model for Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, where American-directed death squads assassinated up to 50,000 people. ‘You can trace back all the major, bloody events run from Washington to the way Suharto came to power,’ he told me. ‘The success of that meant that it would be repeated, again and again.’
Indonesia, once owing nothing but having been plundered of its gold, precious stones, wood, spices and other natural riches by its colonial masters, the Dutch, today has a total indebtedness estimated at $262 billion, which is 170 per cent of its gross domestic product. There is no debt like it on earth. It can never be repaid. It is a bottomless hole.
In a fresh embarrassment for The New York Times, a photographic forensic expert has debunked a new amateurish, anti-Russian analysis of satellite photos related to the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, labeling the work “a fraud.”
Last Saturday, on the eve of the second anniversary of the tragedy that claimed 298 lives, the Times touted the amateur analysis asserting that the Russian government had manipulated two satellite photos that revealed Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine at the time of the shoot-down.
The clear implication of the article by Andrew E. Kramer was that the Russians were covering up their complicity in shooting down the civilian airliner by allegedly doctoring photos to shift the blame to the Ukrainian military. Beyond citing this analysis by armscontrolwonk.com, Kramer noted that the “citizen journalists” at Bellingcat had reached the same conclusion earlier.
But Kramer and the Times left out that the earlier Bellingcat analysis was thoroughly torn apart by photo-forensic experts including Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of the FotoForensics digital image analytical tool that Bellingcat had used. Over the past week, Bellingcat has been aggressively pushing the new analysis by armscontrolwonk.com, with which Bellingcat has close relationships.
This past week, Krawetz and other forensic specialists began weighing in on the new analysis and concluding that it suffered the same fundamental errors as the previous analysis, albeit using a different analytical tool. Given Bellingcat’s promotion of this second analysis by a group with links to Bellingcat and its founder Eliot Higgins, Krawetz viewed the two analyses as essentially coming from the same place, Bellingcat.
“Jumping to the wrong conclusion one time can be due to ignorance,” Krawetz explained in a blog post. “However, using a different tool on the same data that yields similar results, and still jumping to the same wrong conclusion is intentional misrepresentation and deception. It is fraud.”
A Pattern of Error
Krawetz and other experts found that innocuous changes to the photos, such as adding a word box and saving the images into different formats, would explain the anomalies that Bellingcat and its pals at armscontrolwonk.com detected. That was the key mistake that Krawetz spotted last year in dissecting Bellingcat’s faulty analysis.
Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins
Krawetz wrote: “Last year, a group called ‘Bellingcat’ came out with a report about flight MH17, which was shot down near the Ukraine/Russia border. In their report, they used FotoForensics to justify their claims. However, as I pointed out in my blog entry, they used it wrong. The big problems in their report:
“–Ignoring quality. They evaluated pictures from questionable sources. These were low quality pictures that had undergone scaling, cropping, and annotations.
“–Seeing things. Even with the output from the analysis tools, they jumped to conclusions that were not supported by the data.
“–Bait and switch. Their report claimed one thing, then tried to justify it with analysis that showed something different.
“Bellingcat recently came out with a second report. The image analysis portion of their report heavily relied on a program called ‘Tungstène’. … With the scientific approach, it does not matter who’s tool you use. A conclusion should be repeatable though multiple tools and multiple algorithms.
“One of the pictures that they ran though Tungstène was the same cloud picture that they used with ELA [error level analysis]. And unsurprisingly, it generated similar results — results that should be interpreted as low quality and multiple resaves. … These results denote a low quality picture and multiple resaves, and not an intentional alteration as Bellingcat concluded.
“Just like last year, Bellingcat claimed that Tungstène highlighted indications of alterations in the same places that they claimed to see alterations in the ELA result. Bellingcat used the same low quality data on different tools and jumped to the same incorrect conclusion.”
Although Krawetz posted his dissection of the new analysis on Thursday, he began expressing his concerns shortly after the Times article appeared. That prompted Higgins and the Bellingcat crew to begin a Twitter campaign to discredit Krawetz and me (for also citing problems with the Times article and the analysis).
When one of Higgins’s allies mentioned my initial story on the problematic photo analysis, Krawetz noted that my observations supported his position that Bellingcat had mishandled the analysis (although at the time I was unaware of Krawetz’s criticism).
Higgins responded to Krawetz, “he [Parry] doesn’t recognize you’re a hack. Probably because he’s a hack too.”
Further insulting Krawetz, Higgins mocked his review of the photo analyses by writing: “all he has is ‘because I say so’, all mouth no trousers.”
Spoiled by Praise
Apparently, Higgins, who operates out of Leicester, England, has grown spoiled by all the praise lavished on him by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and other mainstream publications despite the fact that Bellingcat’s record for accuracy is a poor one.
For instance, in his first big splash, Higgins echoed U.S. propaganda in Syria about the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack — blaming it on President Bashar al-Assad — but was forced to back down from his assessment when aeronautical experts revealed that the sarin-carrying missile had a range of only about two kilometers, much shorter than Higgins had surmised in blaming the attack on Syrian government forces. (Despite that key error, Higgins continued claiming the Syrian government was guilty.)
Higgins also gave the Australian “60 Minutes” program a location in eastern Ukraine where a “getaway” Buk missile battery was supposedly videoed en route back to Russia, except that when the news crew got there the landmarks didn’t match up, causing the program to have to rely on sleight-of-hand editing to deceive its viewers.
When I noted the discrepancies and posted screenshots from the “60 Minutes” program to demonstrate the falsehoods, “60 Minutes” launched a campaign of insults against me and resorted to more video tricks and outright journalistic fraud in defense of Higgins’s faulty information.
This pattern of false claims and even fraud to promote these stories has not stopped the mainstream Western press from showering Higgins and Bellingcat with acclaim. It probably doesn’t hurt that Bellingcat’s “disclosures” always dovetail with the propaganda themes emanating from Western governments.
It also turns out that both Higgins and “armscontrolwonk.com” have crossover in personnel, such as Melissa Hanham, a co-author of the MH-17 report who also writes for Bellingcat, as does Aaron Stein, who joined in promoting Higgins’s work at “armscontrolwonk.com.”
The two groups also have links to the pro-NATO think tank, Atlantic Council, which has been at the forefront of pushing NATO’s new Cold War with Russia. Higgins is now listed as a “nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative” and armscontrolwonk.com describes Stein as a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
Armscontrolwonk.com is run by nuclear proliferation specialists from the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey, but they appear to have no special expertise in photographic forensics.
A Deeper Problem
But the problem goes much deeper than a couple of Web sites and bloggers who find it professionally uplifting to reinforce propaganda themes from NATO and other Western interests. The bigger danger is the role played by the mainstream media in creating an echo chamber to amplify the disinformation coming from these amateurs.
Just as The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major outlets swallowed the bogus stories about Iraq’s WMD in 2002-2003, they have happily dined on similarly dubious fare about Syria, Ukraine and Russia.
And just as with the Iraq disaster, when those of us who challenged the WMD “group think” were dismissed as “Saddam apologists,” now we’re called “Assad apologists” or “Putin apologists” or simply “hacks” who are “all mouth, no trousers” – whatever that means.
For instance, in 2013 regarding Syria, the Times ran a front-page story using a “vector analysis” to trace the sarin attack back to a Syrian military base about nine kilometers away, but the discovery of the sarin missile’s much shorter range forced the Times to recant its story, which had paralleled what Higgins was writing.
Then, in its eagerness to convey anti-Russian propaganda regarding Ukraine in 2014, the Times even returned to a reporter from its Iraq-falsehood days. Michael R. Gordon, who co-authored the infamous “aluminum tubes” article in 2002 that pushed the bogus claim that Iraq was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program, accepted some new disinformation from the State Department that cited photos supposedly showing Russian soldiers in Russia and then reappearing in Ukraine.
Any serious journalist would have recognized the holes in the story since it wasn’t clear where the photos were taken or whether the blurry images were even the same people, but that didn’t give the Times pause. The article led the front page.
However, only two days later, the scoop blew up when it turned out that a key photo supposedly showing a group of soldiers in Russia, who then reappeared in eastern Ukraine, was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the entire story.
But these embarrassments have not dampened the Times’ enthusiasm for dishing out anti-Russian propaganda whenever possible. Yet, one new twist is that the Times doesn’t just take false claims directly from the U.S. government; it also draws from hip “citizen journalism” Web sites like Bellingcat.
In a world where no one believes what governments say the smart new way to disseminate propaganda is through such “outsiders.”
So, the Times’ Kramer was surely thrilled to get fed a new story off the Web that claimed the Russians had doctored satellite photographs of Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine just before the MH-17 shoot-down.
Instead of questioning the photo-forensic expertise of these nuclear proliferation specialists at armscontrolwonk.com, Kramer simply laid out their findings as further corroboration of Bellingcat’s earlier claims. Kramer also mocked the Russians for trying to cover their tracks with “conspiracy theories.”
Ignoring Official Evidence
But there was another key piece of evidence that the Times was hiding from its readers: documentary evidence from Western intelligence that the Ukrainian military did have powerful anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, and that the ethnic Russian rebels didn’t.
In a report released last October, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.” MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity:
“Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”
Since Dutch intelligence is part of the NATO intelligence apparatus, this report means that NATO and presumably U.S. intelligence share the same viewpoint. Thus, the Russians would have little reason to fake their satellite photos showing Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine if the West’s satellite photos were showing the same thing.
But there is a reason why the Times and other major mainstream publications have ignored this official Dutch government document – because if it’s correct, then it means that the only people who could have shot down MH-17 belong to the Ukrainian military. That would turn upside-down the desired propaganda narrative blaming the Russians.
Yet, that blackout of the Dutch report means that the Times and other Western outlets have abandoned their journalistic responsibilities to present all relevant evidence on an issue of grave importance – bringing to justice the killers of 298 innocent people. Rather than “all the news that’s fit to print,” the Times is stacking the case by leaving out evidence that goes in the “wrong direction.”
Of course, there may be some explanation for how both NATO and Russian intelligence could come to the same “mistaken” conclusion that only the Ukrainian military could have shot down MH-17, but the Times and the rest of the Western mainstream media can’t ethically just pretend the evidence doesn’t exist.
Unless, of course, your real purpose is to disseminate propaganda, not produce journalism. Then, I suppose the behavior of the Times, other MSM publications and, yes, Bellingcat makes a lot of sense.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “MH-17: Two Years of Anti-Russian Propaganda” and “NYT Is Lost in Its Ukraine Propaganda.”]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The influential Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat, which belongs to Prince Faisal bin Salman (son of King Salman), Governor of Madinah, tore into Turkish President Recep Erdogan with a series of vicious attacks that brings to the fore the cracks in the politics of the Muslim Middle East following the failed coup in Turkey last Friday. On successive days, three Op-Eds have appeared, authored by two of the most authoritative establishment talkers in the Saudi media – Abdulrahman Al-Rashed (currently general manager of Al-Arabiya television and formerly editor-in-chief of the daily) and Eyad Abu Shakra (incumbent managing editor of the daily).
The first Op-Ed entitled Will Turkey Boycott the West? by Al-Rashed appeared on Tuesday in the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey. Its message to Erdogan was two-fold: a) Do not annoy the West (read US); and, b) There will be dire consequences if Erdogan pressed for the extradition of the Islamist cleric Fetullah Gulen from the US.
Evidently, Erdogan ignored Al-Rashed’s advice and doomsday predictions and went ahead to allege a likely US role in the coup attempt and warn that Washington will be making a “big mistake” if Gulen is not extradited. On Thursday, Shakra and Al-Rashed in separate articles followed up with a scathing attack on Erdogan personally and his politics.
Shakra in his article titled About Erdogan and Turkey’s Coup Attempt condemned Erdogan for the crackdown on ‘Gulenists’ and all but cited Gulen as a torch bearer of political Islam as much as Erdogan claims himself to be. The article hinted that Gulen casts an appeal within the ruling party AKP. Shakra pointedly brought in former president and AKP’s co-founder Abdullah Gul and former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu). He virtually advised a patch-up between Erdogan and Gulen.
Al-Rashed in a second article alleged that Erdogan is grandstanding on the ‘Arab Street’ and his fate cannot be any different from that of Abdel Gamal Nasser and Sadam Hussein. Worse still, he drew comparison with Imam Khomeini. His article They All Walked This Path also seems to suggest Saudi displeasure that Erdogan draws support from parts of the Arab world. Qatar — whose Emir is close to Erdogan?
What is it that is frightening the Saudi royal family? Prima facie, the disclosures by the famous Saudi whistleblower Mutjahid (who many suspect to be a dissenter within the House of Saud) to the effect that Gulen has strong links with Saudi Arabia and that the powerful deputy crown prince and defence minister Mohammed bin Salman was in the know of the Turkish coup seems to have some basis. There is indeed a tone of panic in the Saudi media attack on Erdogan.
According to Mutjahid, Mohammed bin Salman apparently suspects that the Turkish intelligence knows about the Saudi-UAE role in the attempted coup against Erdogan. (Curiously, according to reports, Turkish military attaché in Kuwait tried to flee to an unnamed western country from the Saudi airport of Dammam before being detained for involvement in the coup attempt.) The Saudi talkers have probably gone on the offensive as the best form of defence, fearing a retaliation by Erdogan.
More importantly, Saudis must be feeling frightened about the manner in which the coup attempt in Turkey was countered by Erdogan, who invoked ‘people’s power’. Shades of ‘Arab Spring’! This is the spectre that always haunted the Saudis – masses pouring out into the streets in their tens of thousands as the final arbiters of political power in a Muslim country. Worse still, this political tactic also leaps out of the manifesto of the Muslim Brotherhood, which poses an existential threat to the Saudi regime.
The point is, from the Saudi viewpoint, the most dangerous thing about Erdogan is not his ‘neo-Ottomanism’ but his close links with the Brothers for whose sake he even sacrificed Turkey’s state-to-state relations with the Egyptian regime of President Abdel Fattah- el-Sisi (who came to power through a Saudi-backed military coup).
Finally, the Saudis are big losers – next only to Israel – in the rapprochement between Turkey and Iran that is getting under way in regional politics. Erdogan told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a phone conversation on Tuesday that he is ready to work with Iran and Russia to restore regional peace. The Iranian official news agency quoted Erdogan as saying,
- Today, we are determined more than ever before to contribute to the solution of regional problems hand in hand with Iran and Russia and in cooperation with them.
Of course, such a realignment in the Muslim Middle East would profoundly impact the balance of forces in regional politics, virtually isolating Saudi Arabia.
Here we go again!
Ever since Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of Labour last September in a record-breaking landslide victory, the Blairites have tried every desperate ruse and tactic imaginable to oust or undermine him. First, there were the baseless accusations of misogyny; then came even more baseless accusations of ‘anti-semtism’; and then, after the Brexit referendum, Corbyn was absurdly blamed for the defeat of Remain, prompting his own shadow cabinet to resign en masse and try, unsuccessfully, to oust him. It seems about the only thing the Blairites haven’t tried yet to get rid of Corbyn is a car-bomb! (On second thought, we probably shouldn’t say that out loud; it might give them ideas.)
And all the while, The Guardian (with a few honourable exceptions, such as Gary Younge) has consistently operated as the house organ of the Blairites, eager to spread the latest slander and calumny against Corbyn. Their latest hit-piece on him, like so many others, desperately tries to convince us that night is day and day is night. Bearing the authoritative sounding title, ‘Labour supporters have cooled on Corbyn, Guardian survey finds’, the article spends a considerable amount of time implying that Labour Party members are now turning against him: “Enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn has waned since the start of the year among Labour supporters, according to a survey of more than 100 constituencies across the country.” The article later lists a veritable catalogue of calamities—present and future—for which Corbyn, presumably, should be held responsible:
The survey also reveals:
- A reluctance to acknowledge that the party might split, though some expressed fear that this is an inevitable outcome of the current divisions.
- Fears that Ukip could exploit the chaos, especially in seats where they are the second largest party after Labour.
- Complaints that many of the new members were not turning up at constituency party meetings or helping with leafleting.
- Reports of intimidation and bullying – widespread across the country.
- Little support so far for deselection of MPs.
As usual, there are plenty of catty-sounding quotes from party officials who’d probably never supported him to start with, such as:
Samantha Atkinson, chair of the CLP (constituency Labour party) in Clacton, which is held by Ukip, expressed pessimism about Labour’s chances at the next general election if Corbyn remains in charge. “If Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected, then I think we’ll fail. In a way, I hope that there’s a snap election and we fail. That way we have a chance to build again.”
But after twenty-two paragraphs of trying to convince us that Corbyn is responsible for just about every misfortune on earth—with possible exception of the Ebola virus—we finally come to this little gem:
James Schneider, a Momentum spokesman, said of the survey: “There does appear to be a disparity between the CLP secretaries and executive officers and the membership as a whole. If you look at the YouGov poll, support for Jeremy Corbyn is up.”
That’s right! This Guardian’s survey is only a survey of Labour’s elites—who, we already know, detest Corbyn: “The Guardian interviewed Labour chairs, secretaries and other office-holders, past and present, as well as councillors from 101 of the 632 constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales on Thursday, Friday and Monday.”
The ordinary rank-and-file members love him as much as ever, while new members are still flocking to the party (and Momentum) just to support him. And readers’ comments—not censored for once!—largely reflect this fact:
Iraq war criminals deserve to be prosecuted. Britain’s Chilcot report is only the most recent example of a worthy cause needing to be addressed. But in 1979, long before false intelligence was used to justify the Iraq war, a heinous war crime was committed against Afghanistan by President’s Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.
It’s not just Brzezinski who is culpable. It was the Washington bureaucracy that enabled Brzezinski to activate his Machiavellian plot of intentionally drawing the Soviets into his “Afghan Trap.”
How the Washington bureaucracy enabled Brzezinski’s scheme and why it’s still important today
Once the Soviets took Brzezinski’s bait and crossed the border into Afghanistan on December 27, 1979 the fates of both countries were doomed. As if in a trance, a complacent bureaucracy turned a blind eye to the lack of proof of the American claims that the Soviet invasion was a step towards world domination. Within days the beltway became a cheering squad, enabling Brzezinski to fulfill his imperial dream of giving the Soviets their own “Vietnam.” The bureaucracy’s motivation was simple. Brzezinski was winning the only game in town, the Cold War against the “Evil Empire.” The fact that Brzezinski’s deceitful plot could lead to the death of Afghanistan as a sovereign state did not concern Washington’s elites, either from the right or the left. Predictably, Afghans’ lives have been turned into an endless nightmare that festers to this day. Not only is Brzezinski’s scheme continuing to undermine Afghanistan’s sovereignty, his Russophobia also drives NATO’s unjustified aggression towards Russia today!
How Brzezinski activated his Russophobic Imperial Dream that now dominates Washington
In 1977 when Brzezinski stepped into the Oval office as National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, his Russophobia was a well-known fact from Washington to Moscow. It was no surprise that he was not content with the American moderates’ pragmatic Cold War acceptance of coexistence with the Soviet state. The Polish born Brzezinski represented the ascendency of a radical new breed of compulsive xenophobic Eastern European intellectual bent on holding Soviet/American policy hostage to their pre-World War II world view. According to Brzezinski biographer Patrick Vaughan, Brzezinski rejected the very legitimacy of the Soviet Union itself, calling it “a cauldron of conquered nationalities brutally consolidated over centuries of Russian expansion.”
Racism is not a basis for a rational foreign policy
A phobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear. Therefore it is reasonable to define a Russophobe as one who has an irrational fear of Russians. Simply put, a Russophobe hates Russians for being Russian! That’s called racism, pure and simple, not the basis of creating rational foreign policy. The Beltway should have demanded that a well-known Russophobe like Brzezinski back his claims with proof that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the first step to taking over the world. Instead, the Washington Bureaucracy dined out on his fantasy and we have been living with the consequences ever since.
The Bureaucracy knows Brzezinski has always been a Russophobe
Paul Warnke, President Carter’s SALT II negotiator put Brzezinski’s racial bias this way in an interview we conducted with him in 1993. “It was almost an ethnic thing with Zbig, basically that inbred Polish attitude toward the Russians. And that of course that was what frustrated the Carter Administration. [Secretary of State] Vance felt very much the way that I did. Brzezinski felt the opposite. And Carter couldn’t decide which one of them he was going to follow. So it adds up to a recipe for indecision.” Warnke went on to say that he believed the Soviets would never have invaded Afghanistan in the first place if Carter had not fallen victim to Brzezinski’s irrational attitude toward détente and his undermining of SALT II. In our own research into the causes of the Soviet invasion we did prove Warnke’s assumption that there would have been no invasion without Brzezinski’s willful use of entrapment.
At a conference conducted by the Nobel Institute in 1995, a high-level group of former US and Soviet officials faced off over the question: Why did the Soviets invade Afghanistan? Former National Security Council staff member Dr. Gary Sick established that the US had assigned Afghanistan to the Soviet sphere of influence years before the invasion. So why did the US choose an ideologically-biased position when there were any number of verifiable fact-based explanations for why the Soviets invaded? To former CIA Director Stansfield Turner, responsibility could only be located in the personality of one specific individual. “Brzezinski’s name comes up here every five minutes; but nobody has as yet mentioned that he is a Pole.” Turner said. “[T]he fact that Brzezinski is a Pole, it seems to me was terribly important.” What Turner was suggesting in 1995 was that Brzezinski’s well-known Russophobia led him to take unjustifiable advantage of a Soviet miscalculation.
The conference revealed that “self-fulfilling prophecies,” “a dubious deductive apparatus,” and “decisions that provoked as often as they deterred” provided the operating system for more than a decade of Cold War policy under Presidents Carter and Reagan. Numerous scholars pondered Brzezinski’s decision-making process before, during and after the Soviet invasion. Dr. Carol Saivetz of Harvard University testified, “Whether or not Zbig was from Poland or from someplace else, he had a world view, and he tended to interpret events as they unfolded in light of it. To some extent, his fears became self-fulfilling prophecies… Nobody looked at Afghanistan and what was happening there all by itself.”
But it wasn’t until the 1998 Nouvel Observateur interview that Brzezinski boasted that he had provoked the invasion, by getting Carter to authorize a presidential finding to intentionally suck the Soviets in, six months before Moscow considered invading. Yet, despite Brzezinski’s admission, Washington’s entire political spectrum continued to embrace his original false narrative, that the Soviets were embarked on world conquest.
Brzezinski’s Russophobia is still the basis of U.S. foreign policy towards Russia
For Brzezinski, getting the Soviets to invade Afghanistan was an opportunity to shift Washington toward an unrelenting hard line against the Soviet Union. By using deceit combined with covert action, he created the conditions needed to provoke a Soviet defensive response, which he then used as evidence of Soviet expansion. However, after Brzezinski’s exaggerations and outright lies about Soviet intentions became accepted, they found a home in America’s imagination and never left. US foreign policy, since that time, has operated in a delusion of triumphalism, provoking international incidents and then capitalizing on the chaos.
Brzezinski’s current status as the almost mystical “wise elder” of American foreign policy should be viewed with extreme caution given the means by which he achieved it. Today, the legacy of Brzezinski’s Russophobic ideological agenda continues through many acolytes including his two sons, as they carry on the Brzezinski lineage by aggressively pushing beltway polices towards dangerous confrontations with Russia. Tragically, Brzezinski’s legacy also lives on in the failed state of Afghanistan as the hated Taliban are poised to take over again. While all this horror is happening to the Afghan people, NATO forces are using Brzezinski’s homeland of Poland to push provocatively against Russia’s border.
The role that Brzezinski played, as well as those officials who enabled him to cause the death of Afghanistan while intentionally triggering the rise of Islamic extremism, must be examined. Building to a trial, even in absentia, will begin the desperately needed process of breaking the trance-like hold Brzezinski’s Russophobia still has on Washington’s foreign policy that is denying its core role in creating Islamic extremism and driving America to the brink of nuclear war with Russia.
No matter whom the next president is, if we are to save America, this forty year old crime against Afghanistan must first be made right.
Forensic experts are challenging an amateur report – touted in The New York Times – that claimed Russia faked satellite imagery of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the day that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky killing 298 people.
In a Twitter exchange, Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of the FotoForensics digital image analytical tool, wrote: “‘Bad analysis’ is an understatement. This ‘report’ is outright fraud.”
Another computer imaging expert, Masami Kuramoto, wrote, “This is either amateur hour or supposed to deceive audiences without tech background,” to which Krawetz responded: “Why ‘or’? Amateur hour AND deceptive.”
On Saturday, The New York Times, which usually disdains Internet reports even from qualified experts, chose to highlight the report by arms control researchers at armscontrolwonk.com who appear to have little expertise in the field of forensic photographic analysis.
The Times article suggested that the Russians were falsely claiming that the Ukrainian military had Buk missile systems in eastern Ukraine on the day that MH-17 was shot down. But the presence of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in the area has been confirmed by Western intelligence, including a report issued last October on the findings of the Dutch intelligence agency which had access to NATO’s satellite and other data collection.
Indeed, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) concluded that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government, not the ethnic Russian rebels. MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. (The MH-17 flight had originated in Amsterdam and carried many Dutch citizens, explaining why the Netherlands took the lead in the investigation.)
MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.” MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity:
“Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”
I know that I have cited this section of the Dutch report before but I repeat it because The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading U.S. news organizations have ignored these findings, presumably because they don’t advance the desired propaganda theme blaming the Russians for the tragedy.
In other words, the Times, the Post and the rest of the mainstream U.S. media want the Russians to be guilty, so they exclude from their articles evidence that suggests that some element of the Ukrainian military might have fired the fateful missile. Such “group think” is, of course, the same journalistic malfeasance that led to the false reporting about Iraq’s WMD. Doubts, even expressed by experts, were systematically filtered out then and the same now.
Further, it is dishonest journalism to ignore a credible government report that bears directly on an important issue, especially while running dubious Internet analyses and accepting propaganda claims from self-interested U.S. officials seeking to make the case against Russia.
For instance, the Dutch report contradicted The Washington Post’s early reporting on MH-17. On July 20, 2014, just three days after the crash. the Post published an article with the title “Russia Supplied Missile Launchers to Separatists, U.S. Official Says.”
In the article, the Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Karen DeYoung reported from Kiev that an anonymous U.S. official said the U.S. government had “confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border.”
This official told the Post that Russia didn’t just supply one Buk battery, but three. Though this account has never been retracted, there were problems with it from the start, including the fact that a U.S. “government assessment” – released by the Director of National Intelligence on July 22, 2014, (two days later) – listed a variety of weapons allegedly provided by the Russians to the ethnic Russian rebels but not a Buk anti-aircraft missile system.
In other words, two days after the Post cited a U.S. official claiming that the Russians had given the rebels three Buk batteries, the DNI’s “government assessment” made no reference to a delivery of one, let alone three Buk systems. And that absence of evidence came in the context of the DNI larding the “government assessment” with every possible innuendo to implicate the Russians, including “social media” entries. But there was no mention of a Buk delivery.
The significance of this missing link is hard to overstate. At the time eastern Ukraine was the focus of extraordinary U.S. intelligence collection because of the potential for the crisis to spin out of control and start World War III. Plus, a Buk missile battery is large and difficult to conceal. The missiles themselves are 16-feet-long and are usually pulled around by truck.
U.S. spy satellites, which supposedly can let you read a license plate in Moscow, would have picked up these images. And, if for some inexplicable reason a Buk battery was missed before July 17, 2014, it would surely have been spotted during an after-action review of the satellite imagery. But the U.S. government has released nothing of the kind.
In the days after the MH-17 crash, I was told by a source that U.S. intelligence had spotted Buk systems in the area but they appeared to be under Ukrainian government control. The source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts said the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile was manned by troops dressed in what looked like Ukrainian uniforms.
At that point, the source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops might have been eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Did US Spy Satellites See in Ukraine?”]
Subsequently, the source said, these analysts reviewed other intelligence data, including recorded phone intercepts, and concluded that the shoot-down was carried out by a rogue element of the Ukrainian government, working with a rabidly anti-Russian oligarch, but that senior Ukrainian leaders, such as President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, were not implicated. However, I have not been able to determine if this assessment was a dissident opinion or a consensus within U.S. intelligence circles.
Another intelligence source told me that CIA analysts did brief Dutch authorities during the preparation of the Dutch Safety Board’s report but that the U.S. information remained classified and unavailable for public release. In the Dutch reports, there is no reference to U.S.-supplied information although they do reflect sensitive details about Russian-made weapons systems, secrets declassified by Moscow for the investigation.
An NYT Pattern?
So, what to make of the Times hyping an amateur analysis of two Russian satellite photos and reporting that they showed manipulation. Though the claim seems to be designed to raise doubts about the presence of Ukrainian Buk missile batteries in eastern Ukraine, the presence of those missiles is really not in doubt.
And it makes sense the Ukrainians would move their anti-aircraft missiles toward the front because of fears that the powerful Ukrainian offensive then underway against ethnic Russian rebels might provoke Russia to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Shifting anti-aircraft missile batteries toward the border would be a normal military preparation in such a situation.
That’s particularly true because a Ukrainian fighter plane was shot down along the border on July 16, 2014, presumably from an air-to-air missile fired by a Russian plane. Tensions were high at the time and the possibility that an out-of-control Ukrainian crew misidentified MH-17 as a Russian military jet or Putin’s plane cannot be dismissed.
But all this context is missing from the Times article by reporter Andrew E. Kramer, who has been a regular contributor to the Times’ anti-Russian propaganda. He treats the findings by some nuclear arms control researchers at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies as definitive though there’s no reason to believe that these folks have any special expertise in applying this software whose creator says requires careful analysis.
The new report was based on the filtering software Tungstene designed by Roger Cozien, who has warned against rushing to judge “anomalies” in photographs as intentional falsifications when they may result from the normal process of saving an image or making innocent adjustments.
In an interview in Time magazine, Cozien said, “These filters aim at detecting anomalies. They give you any and all specific and particular information which can be found in the photograph file. And these particularities, called ‘singularities’, are sometimes only accidental: this is because the image was not well re-saved or that the camera had specific features, for example.
“The software in itself is neutral: it does not know what is an alteration or a manipulation. So, when it notices an error, the operator needs to consider whether it is an image manipulation, or just an accident.”
In other words, anomalies can be introduced by innocent actions related to saving or modifying an image, such as transferring it to a different format, adjusting the contrast or adding a word box. But it is difficult for a layman to assess the intricacies involved.
To buttress the new report, Kramer cited the work of Bellingcat, a group of “citizen journalists” who have made a solid business out of reaffirming whatever Western propaganda is claiming, whether about Syria, Ukraine or Russia.
Bellingcat’s founder Eliot Higgins also had raised doubts about the Russian photos – using Dr. Krawetz’s FotoForensics software – but those findings were subsequently debunked by Dr. Krawetz himself and other experts. While Kramer cited Higgins’s earlier analysis, the Times reporter left out the fact that those findings were disputed by professional experts.
Dr. Krawetz also found the new photographic analysis both amateurish and deceptive. When I contacted him by email, he declined an interview and noted that Bellingcat fans were already on the offensive, trying to shut down dissent to the new report.
In an email to me, he wrote: “I have already seen the Bellingcat trolls verbally attack me, their ‘reporters’ use intimidation tactics, and their CEO insults me. (Hmmm … First he uses my software, then his team seeks me out as an expert, then he insults me when my opinion differs from his.)”
If it’s true that the first casualty of war is truth, the old saying also seems to apply to a new Cold War.
[For more on Bellingcat and its erroneous work, see Consortiumnews.com’s “MH-17 Case: ‘Old’ Journalism vs. ‘New.’”]
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).
Eastern Ukraine neighbourhood shelled by Ukraine armed forces (UNHCR photo)
Five days ago, the United Nations Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released another in a long line of reports purporting to provide an overview of the human rights situation in Ukraine. This latest report is titled “Accountability for killings in Ukraine from January 2014 to May 2016”.
The report is 20 pages long with 31 additional pages of appendix examining “Cases of violations or abuses of the right to life in Ukraine from January 2014 to May 2016”. A press release by the UN body summarizes the content of the report.
The OHCHR report is another outlandish collection of selected facts making a strong inference that a large part of the “abuses to the right to life” it examines are the fault of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and their self-defense forces.
As with past reports, the OHCHR makes an equivalency between, on the one hand, the governing regime in Kyiv which is bound by all of the international conventions on human rights which previous Ukrainian governments signed onto and, on the other hand, the people’s republics and armed forces of Donetsk and Lugansk which are not so bound. The Donetsk and Lugansk republics cannot sign on to international human rights conventions because they are shunned and unrecognized by most international bodies… including the OHCHR!
At last check, it is not the republics of the former eastern Ukraine which have invaded Ukraine, but Ukraine that has invaded and imposed an ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ against the people there. Yet the UN report describes Kyiv’s civil war as a “separatist conflict”.
Adding insult to injury, the UN press release says, “According to the report, the killings are being “fueled by the inflow of foreign fighters and weapons from the Russian Federation”.
The UN report fails to mention that even if such a patently false description of the conflict as being a “separatist conflict” were true, Ukraine is nonetheless duty bound by international convention to protect its nominal citizens and not wage war against them.
The UN report speaks of shadowy “armed groups” in Donetsk and Lugansk who it says are responsible for extra-judicial killings as well as prisoner abuse, torture and killings. Yet when it comes to the extremist and neo-Nazi paramilitaries who are joined with Ukraine’s armed forces in waging civil war, they are given the polite description of “volunteer battalions”. Sounds downright patriotic and heroic!
When it comes to the Kyiv regime itself, the UN report language is all kid glove. For example, in professing concern about the Odessa Massacre of 48 people on May 2, 2014, UN press release writes:
The report also highlighted the violence that took place on 2 May 2014, in Odesa, during which 48 people died as a result of clashes between “pro-unity” and “pro-federalism” groups. OHCHR “remains concerned that the authorities have still not taken appropriate measures to ensure effective investigations into the 2 May 2014 events, nor to protect the independence of the judiciary,” the report said.
On that day in Odessa, nearly all of the victims were peacefully protesting against the coup in Ukraine in February 2014 which deposed the country’s elected president. They were targeted for killing when the trade union building in the center of the city where they had taken refuge from a right-wing mob was set on fire.
Further in the press release we read:
Furthermore, the report found that the lack of accountability remains widespread in Ukraine, despite efforts by the Government [sic] to bring perpetrators from its own ranks to justice and the pre-trial investigations by the Office of the Chief Military Prosecutor into cases of killing, torture and ill-treatment by members of the armed groups of the self-proclaimed [sic] “Donetsk people’s republic” and self-proclaimed “Luhansk people’s republic.”
While acknowledging the challenges faced by the authorities in ensuring justice, including the lack of access to the territories where many of the alleged acts took place, the report noted “an apparent lack of motivation to investigate some cases … especially when it concerns acts allegedly committed by Ukrainian forces.”
What about the Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement, signed by Ukraine on February 12, 2015 and endorsed by no less that the UN Security Council several days later? Not a word of it in the OHCHR press release. In the 20 pages of the report, one finds several references to the need to implement what is called the “Minsk Agreements”, but no detailed description of the content and import of the agreement is provided.
How bad is the official state of human rights in Ukraine? Two months ago, the UN’s Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture took the unprecedented step of cancelling in mid-visit an official visit looking into reported cases of torture by Ukrainian government forces and by rebel authorities in the east. The reason for the cancellation was that Kyiv refused to live up to its obligations under Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, an international convention to which a previous Ukrainian government signed on. It requires signators to provide unfettered access to prisons and other places of detention. The subcommittee was intending to investigate reports of secret prisons operated by Ukraine’s police and military services.
Oh, don’t look for information in this latest UN report on the telling experience of the UN’s Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture two months ago. Blank. Apparently, that would be unrelated to “Cases of violations or abuses of the right to life in Ukraine from January 2014 to May 2016”.
UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has long been a critic of his coverage in the British press, and now a new study has found that three-quarters of newspaper stories about the Labour leader’s first months of leadership either distorted or failed to represent his actual views.
Academics from the London School of Economics (LSE) undertook a review of Corbyn-related stories in national newspapers from September 1 to November 1 last year, concluding that the Labour leader had been “thoroughly delegitimized” as a result of the coverage he received.
The research concluded that in 52 percent of articles about the Labour leader, Corbyn’s views were not included in the story, while in a further 22 percent of articles his views were “present but taken out of context.”
Meanwhile, out of the more than 800 articles analyzed, 15 percent presented and challenged Corbyn’s views, while just 11 percent presented the Labour leader’s views without challenge or alteration.
“Our analysis shows that Corbyn was thoroughly delegitimized as a political actor from the moment he became a prominent candidate and even more so after he was elected as party leader,” LSE project director Dr Bart Cammaerts said.
Concerns Over Impact on Democracy
Researchers also pointed to the impact this distorted coverage of Corbyn’s views was having on British democracy.
“These results relating to sources and ‘voice’ are evidently troublesome from a democratic perspective,” Cammaerts added.
“Allowing an important and legitimate political actor, ie the leader of the main opposition party, to develop their own narrative and have a voice in the public space is paramount in a democracy.
“Denying such an important political actor a voice or distorting his views and ideas through the exercise of mediated power is highly problematic.”
The LSE team said Corbyn had been “systematically attacked” ever since coming to prominence last summer, and that the British media had “played an attackdog, rather than a watchdog, role.”
Crazy Marxist and Terrorist Friends
The report highlighted particular examples where Corbyn was portrayed as being a radical leftist or as someone with links to terrorist groups such as the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah.
“Corbyn is systematically ridiculed, scorned and the object of personal attacks by most newspapers. Even more problematic were a set of associations which deligitimised Corbyn as a politician, calling him loony, unpatriotic, a terrorist friend and a dangerous individual,” the report concluded.
Broadcaster Sky News removed an article from its website last year that referred to Corbyn as “Jihadi Jez” following widespread public criticism.
Corbyn has himself hit out at the media following his portrayal over the past 12 months, banning journalists from asking questions outside the front of his home.
“We have a party under attack from much of the media in this country like it has never been under attack before,” he said earlier this year.
The study featured publications with views ranging all across the political spectrum and included The Sun, The Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, the Independent, the Daily Mirror and the Guardian.
The lie about Erdoğan being refused asylum in Germany appears to have originated (see from 13:50 in the video here) with a tweet from an MSNBC producer called Kyle Griffin, based on information from a ‘senior US military source’. I believe that conclusively refutes any American claims to non-involvement.
The Labour Coup just won’t die. It has become the masked killer from a b-list horror film. Lurching from one unlikely scenario to another, staunchly surviving an endless series of self-inflicted wounds, each one alone capable of felling a lesser being. Most observers knew it was all over the moment Corbyn refused to resign, if it survived that it was only by clinging to faint hope that they could keep him off the ballot. The NEC’s vote effectively put a stake through its heart. It is over.
The frantic struggling, as the traitors in the PLP and their media accomplices refuse to go quietly, is frankly undignified. The weasel-worded insinuations, and laughably obvious attempts to rig the rules, are pathetic. If the vote is anything even vaguely approaching fair, then Corbyn will win. The slimy tactics of his opponents will only drive people to the other side.
That Smith and Eagle have turned on each other demonstrates the values on display here. This isn’t about “saving Labour”, this is about grabbing power, about the basic principle that no real person of principle should ever be allowed influence, and about the preservation of a corrupt parliament where every smiling suit and skirt – from either side – is part of the same club. These are people of such low moral character that they can’t even act to preserve their own way of life, without layering in the need to polish their own gargantuan sense of self-import. Shallow egos that have gutted and cannibalized their own “movement” in its cradle.
The Guardian, or The Observer, are determined not to give up the fight. As of this morning they have an interview with Owen Smith, an article by Peter Walker, a column by Tom Watson, a polemic by Angela Eagle and some kind of… offering from Nick Cohen (I’m not sure what to call it…but reading it made me need to take a shower). They all say the same thing in slightly different words.
The message is same as it has been for 10 months – confused, ephemeral, abusive. There is no discussion of policy. There is narry a mention of political issues at all. There’s certainly no references to the LSE research into media bias against Corbyn.
Eagle’s column is especially disingenuous. She writes:
“… the party is as divided and disunited as I can remember. The current leadership has settled into a sectarian comfort zone – the effect of this has been to provoke personal attacks on MPs, a string of death and rape threats and bricks through windows.”
… neglecting to mention that the “disunity” came when the PLP deliberately plotted to remove the democratically chosen leader of the party, not through a straight leadership challenge, but through emotional blackmail and political leverage. It is the actions of her faction, sideways thinkers and sideways actors, that split the party open.
That she mentions the threats that have never been confirmed, and then proceeds to pluralise the bricks as if it were a campaign as opposed to a single incident, is absurd. There’s nothing to suggest Momentum, or any Corbyn supporter, had anything to do with the brick (singular). For all we know the “rape and death threats” are as real as the “threatening phone calls” that cancelled her Luton event, or the “homophobic abuse” that never happened. It’s perfectly possible these acts, if they are real, are being paid for by rich Labour donors in order to undermine Corbyn. It’s perfectly possible they simply didn’t happen at all.
But let’s say they did. It isn’t Corbyn, or his supporters, who have “provoked personal attacks on MPs”. Neither Corbyn nor McDonnell have collapsed into ad hominem rhetoric as much as the coup-plotters. You know what provokes people? You know what makes people angry? Being ignored. Being insulted. Being told that they don’t matter and have no power. That’s what makes people angry.
Democracy, as its core concept, is about the even distribution of influence. A democratic system cuts power into millions of tiny pieces, and hands one piece out to each person. “Here, this is your voice”, it says “you can make yourself heard”. In this way you put a halt to violence, you cap people’s frustrations by telling them that THEY have the power to change things. If you take away that influence, if you shout down their voices, if you tell people that they are wrong, that they don’t understand, that you know better than them…. then you are attempting to seize their portion of power. You are silencing their voice. You are fuelling their anger.
That’s when bricks start flying.
It is not Corbyn, or McDonnell, or Momentum or Unite that have provoked the public, it is the 172 MPs who brazenly declared war on the democratic process. It is a political class who, for years, have padded their expenses and voted for pay increases and claimed for second homes, and all the while pretended to be working for us… and then ignored our voices.
On top of all that, the idea someone who voted for the Iraq war can claim the moral high-ground because somebody threw a brick into an empty office is pretty appalling. I’m not sure how many windows got broken in Baghdad, but it was probably more than one.
Her article contains no policies except “inclusiveness”, no arguments except “I’m a gay, working class woman”. Vague patriotic slogans, self-pity, justifications and plenty of criticising Corbyn, including this beauty [my emphasis]:
Jeremy appeared to think that by appearing on television and saying he was seven out of 10 in favour of staying in Europe this would appeal to people who were not sure themselves. Instead it just gave them permission to vote Leave.
If we’ve learned anything about Angela Eagle in the last few weeks, it’s that she doesn’t believe in people having permission to vote for things. Not a great quality in an MP. We don’t need Corbyn’s permission to vote for, or against, anything. We don’t need permission at all. That’s kind of the whole point of the system. This phrase demonstrates just how in line with modern political thinking Eagle is, it reveals a core of authoritarian contempt for the electorate. It would not be out-of-place in a speech from another uncharismatic blond, running for office on the other side of the Atlantic. The “progressive left”, it seems, may have named themselves ironically.
All of that may be entirely moot, of course, because it seems Eagle is old news. Too tainted by the Iraq war, too embarrassed by her squib of a campaign launch, and frankly too atrociously poor at pubic relations herself to merit further discussion. She will soon consign herself to the dustbin of history… probably on the promise of being Smith’s Shadow Chancellor should he win the leadership. A sort of Poundland version of the deal done between Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008. Polly Toynbee, Eagle’s lone cheerleader, has shuffled off to buy more gin and complain about twitter to anybody with the patience to listen.
Owen Smith is now where it’s at. You can tell because, not only does he get a puff-piece interview which tries to make him look ordinary and principled, he then gets an article (by Zoe Williams) about how ordinary and principled he is. Neither of them mention his efforts, while a PR rep for Pfizer, to promote the privatisation of the NHS. Both of them pretend he had no hand in the planning or execution of the coup… despite openly acknowledging this tweet from John Mann MP:
Both articles repeat Smith’s story about John McDonnell saying that he’ll split the Labour party “if that’s what it takes”, without reference to the fact that McDonnell has categorically denied he ever said any such thing. They portray Smith as a reluctant challenger. A decent man, called to action against Corbyn. Despite being an “enthusiastic convert to Corbynism”, he was compelled to run for leader because he “shared the doubts of his colleagues about the person leading them”.
What follows is an avalanche of anecdotes, all from one side, designed to make Corbyn look like a doddering incompetent. They paint a picture of man who can barely function, one wonders how Corbyn manages to dress himself, let alone be an MP for 40 years. Once again, there’s not single piece evidence any of this ever happened. This interesting nugget of information is buried at the end:
A mysterious group called Saving Labour, which declines to comment on its leadership or funding – allegedly for fear of being abused– is organising over a hundred street stalls, paying for content on Facebook and even mounting an advertising campaign in the pages of the Guardian and the Observer in order to collect voters who will oppose Corbyn.
There’s a “mysterious group” backing the anti-Corbyn movement, it has no named leader and no known sources of funding. You would think, then, that a newspaper would investigate further. You would think any journalist worth his salt would delve a little deeper. The subject is never expanded upon.
This is Saving Labour’s website. It claims to be a group of “concerned citizens” interested in “saving democracy”. That’s it. No names. No list of backers. No policies. No candidates. That such an “organisation” can be used as a source by newspapers is astounding – it follows in the recent tradition of Guardian sources on that score. Bellingcat, the “citizen journalist organisation” is actually an unemployed admin assistant with no journalistic or photographic training, and no talent for either. The “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”, is one man living above a corner-shop in Coventry. Saving Labour? Nobody knows. It is from such sources that our “news” is produced. Why? Because they produce handy soundbites that conform to the pre-written narrative.
Just like Owen Smith.
And so we come to Nick Cohen, and his festering wound of a column, demonstrating everything wrong with a Western political establishment that long ago abandoned truth as an ideal. The Western world, and the media especially, no longer talk of morality as an abstract absolute of black and white, or even a subtle spectrum of shades of grey.
No, in the modern world, Cohen’s world, morality is an absolute in the worst possible sense. He is moral, so everything he does is moral. Morality is a condition of an adherence to the consensus. That’s Nick Cohen’s world. In that universe it’s perfectly possible for a “good person” to be pro-war, to slander people, to lie both actively and by omission.
That is modern political thought – expressed through Blair and Obama and… pretty soon… Hilary Clinton. It is a total reversal of the accepted paradigm, going back thousands of years. Where once a person was defined by their actions, now actions are defined by the people who do them.
We are good, they are bad. Hence, we do right, they do wrong.
That is the premise upon which every Nick Cohen article is based. That is the premise that allows him, here, to admit to campaigning for an illegal war which cost at least a million lives… and yet claim moral authority over anti-war protesters because they went on Iranian television.
He writes about the “insane conspiracy theories against Labour MPs”. A vague accusation, so lacking in specifics that you have to make an assumption in order to offer a refutation. Let’s assume he is referring to the claims that the coup was plotted weeks or months in advance. These are hardly insane considering the Telegraph printed a story about the coup 10 days before it happened, that Angela Eagle’s leadership website was registered 2 days before she resigned, and John Mann was approached about backing Owen Smith for leader 6 months ago. Not forgetting all the ties to Portland Communication.
Again we see the total disregard for truth, or evidence, or reason. The same attitude marks Western coverage of Ukraine, of Syria, and of Brexit. The attitude that you can lie something into existence, and deny a fact until it goes away. It is the attitude of people who believe, as Karl Rove said:
We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
I have written about the modern media’s struggle to enforce fake reality on a world in which they are increasingly obsolete. It is a struggle, much like the Corbyn coup, which the Guardian refuses to acknowledge is over. Katherine Viner wrote a long article a few days back, in essence a 6000 word plea for money. It was headlined:
How technology disrupted the truth – Social media has swallowed the news, threatening the funding of public-interest reporting and ushering in an era when everyone has their own facts.”
The basic point, aside from “We are struggling PLEASE send us cash!”, was that the world needs “proper journalism”, because social media is unreliable and allows people “pick their own facts”. More honestly she would say social media allows people to get all the facts and make up their own minds. That the media are losing their ability to shape our certitudes.
The coverage of Corbyn is a perfect illustration of this.
This isn’t about the leader of the Labour party, this is about a political establishment panicking in the face of an important realisation: They are not in control. They thought they could control Ukraine. They thought they could control Syria. They thought they could control Corbyn. They thought they could control Brexit. One by one the small plans have twisted and corrupted and become unrecognisable, the grander scheme – if a coherent one ever truly existed – has been scattered to the winds. The world is refusing to cooperate, and all they can do is carry on repeating lines from an increasingly irrelevant script.
What we have here is more than just an attempted, domestic coup. What we have here is microcosm of a political and media establishment that is slowly going insane. What we have here is their last recourse, their attempt to control reality by equal measures of fear, denial, abuse and dishonesty. And what we have here, perhaps reassuringly, is an abject failure.
Western media regularly quotes the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on statistics regarding the current Syrian conflict. Take, for example, this recent article from the Guardian, which reported the “UK-based monitor says dozens have died after [an] attack near [the] border with Turkey.” Referring to the SOHR as a “monitor” or “monitoring group” is a common practice corporate media employs to lend the organization legitimacy.
So who—or what—is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights?
The truth is stranger than fiction.
At the time of this article’s publication, the official SOHR website has been down for several days. However, an archived version last captured on July 5, 2016, reveals details about the organization. Founded in May 2006, the SOHR is a group of people—not associated with or linked to any political body—that documents the Human Rights situation in Syria. They assert their goals and aspirations are democracy, freedom, justice and equality. The founder and director of SOHR is Rami Abdulrahman, a Sunni Muslim who fled to the United Kingdom after being arrested numerous times in Syria. He never returned.
In December 2011, Reuters provided some insight into how this so-called Observatory, “arguably Syria’s most high-profile human rights group,” operates:
‘Are there clashes? How did he die? Ah, he was shot,’ said Rami Abdulrahman into a phone, the talk of gunfire and death incongruous with his two bedroom terraced home in Coventry, from where he runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Reuters further stated:
“[W]hen he isn’t fielding calls from international media, Abdulrahman is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife.”
According to the New York Times, Abdulrahman relies on four men from inside Syria to help collate and report data from more than 230 activists on the ground. The Times admitted the SOHR is, essentially, “a one-man band” operating out of a “semi-detached red brick house on an ordinary residential street” using the “simplest, cheapest Internet technology available.”
He relies on money from his clothes business, as well as small subsidies from the European Union and one European country he refuses to identify.
According to an interview with RT published last year—in which the SOHR director proved to be very elusive before he was eventually tracked down by the reporter—Abdulrahman acknowledged he personally has not been back to Syria in over 15 years, adding:
But I know some of the Observatory activists through common friends. This organization only takes new members following a six-month trial period and the candidate has to be familiar to someone from the organization or to a reliable outside contact.
To date, his informants remain anonymous, and he is the only individual listed as working for SOHR. Abdulrahman has no journalistic or legal qualifications, is not based in Syria, and relies on phone calls–yet the corporate media quotes his reports without question. This is particularly damning for Russia, as prominent outlets like the International Business Times have released articles treating the SOHR as an authority:
SOHR, which collects information from several ground sources in Syria, in a statement on its website, accused the regime and Russian air forces of bombing areas without distinguishing between the civilian and militant targets.
The ridiculousness of this reporting has been, in turn, chastised by Russia. As stated by the Russian Foreign Ministry through its spokesperson, Maria Zakharova:
“This information appears with reference to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in London. As we all understand, it is very ‘convenient’ to cover and observe what is happening in Syria without leaving London and without the ability to collect information in the field.”
However, it could be the case that Abdulrahman scrutinizes every piece of information from his sources to the best of his ability. It could be the case that his sources are the most reliable sources inside Syria and are not trying to push a particular agenda. However, statements like, “I came to Britain the day Hafez al-Assad died, and I’ll return when Bashar al-Assad goes” seem to suggest the “Observatory” may not always be a neutral source.
But how would we know, anyway? How does the corporate media know to trust these reports?
They don’t, yet they quote this so-called Observatory on a regular basis, peddling a pro-war agenda in the process. The media treats its coverage of Syria like war is a game—as if innocent lives won’t be lost and the repercussions of a war with Syria are not massive.
When did the corporate media become so lazy? The fact that Western media resorts to quoting a t-shirt shop stationed thousands of miles from the Syrian conflict reveals something about the availability of actual evidence, especially when such reports purport to document the atrocities the Syrian and Russian regimes are committing inside Syria. This is not to say Russian and Syrian forces have not caused widespread damage and inflicted suffering on many Syrians. But surely, if the credible evidence existed to support those peddling anti-Assad propaganda, news outlets would likely not use a t-shirt shop in England as a regular source.
That being said, my girlfriend’s family has a barbecue business at the front of their house; perhaps I can start documenting human rights abuses in the Middle East for the establishment media, as well.
Member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas are natural targets for the relentless psychological warfare of Western news media, because they form a resistance front to the foreign policy imperatives of the United States government and its allies. Right now, Venezuela is the most obvious example. Daily negative coverage in Western media reports invariably attack and blame the Venezuelan government for the country’s political and economic crisis. Similar coverage is applied to the governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Cuba’s revolutionary government led by Raul Castro and also to Nicaragua’s Sandinista government led by Daniel Ortega.
By contrast, the permanent economic sabotage, the attacks on democratic process and the cynical promotion of violence by the dysfunctional Venezuelan opposition gets a free pass. Likewise, U.S. and European news media have virtually nothing to report about Argentina’s abrupt plunge into crisis with 40 percent inflation and a dramatic increase in poverty after barely six months of Mauricio Macri’s corruption tainted government. Nor has coverage of the chronic complicity of the Mexican government in covering up the disappearance of of the 43 Ayotzinapa students or the mass murder of striking teachers in Oaxaca matched the hysteria applied by Western media to Venezuela over bogus human rights concerns.
No doubt political scientists could work out the correlation between adverse or downright hostile media coverage and official measures or announcements by U.S. and allied governments. What’s clear in general is that Western media coverage actively and purposefully serves U.S. and allied government foreign policy preparing the ground for otherwise categorically inexplicable measures of diplomatic and economic aggression. For example, the self-evidently absurd declaration by President Obama that Venezuela constitutes a threat to the security of the United States or the anti-humanitarian failure of the U.S. government to lift the illegal economic blockade of Cuba despite President Obama’s duplicitous avowals recognizing the blockade’s political failure.
Venezuela and Cuba are close, loyal allies of Nicaragua, now in an election year. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has faced a Western media assault over the last month or so with the U.S. government issuing a travel alert. The alert warns U.S. travelers to Nicaragua to be wary of “increased government scrutiny of foreigners’ activities, new requirements for volunteer groups, and the potential for demonstrations during the upcoming election season in Nicaragua…. U.S. citizens in Nicaragua should be aware of heightened sensitivity by Nicaraguan officials to certain subjects or activities, including: elections, the proposed inter-oceanic canal, volunteer or charitable visits, topics deemed sensitive by or critical of the government.” In a video mixed message about that alert, the U.S. Ambassador to the country, Laura Dogu, states that the advisory should in no way deter tourists from the United States visiting Nicaragua.
The travel alert appears to have been provoked by the experiences of a U.S. academic and also two U.S. government functionaries who were asked by the Nicaraguan authorities to leave the country in June. The official U.S. reaction has a lot in common with the mentality described in “Orientalism,” Edward Said’s intricate psycho-cultural map of Western perceptions of Muslim countries. Said writes, “The scientist, the scholar, the missionary, the trader or the soldier was in or thought about the Orient because he could be there or could think about it with very little resistance on the Orient’s part.” Translated to the Americas, the attitudes and behavior of Said’s orientalist are clearly present among U.S. Americanists, both governmental and non-governmental, and their regional collaborators.
The latest example of Americanist hubris here in Nicaragua has been a remarkably unscholarly outburst by Evan Ellis, the professor of the U.S. College of War who was expelled by the Nicaraguan government while attempting an unauthorized investigation of Nicaragua’s proposed interoceanic canal. Ellis’ ill-tempered diatribe repeats a familiar litany of downright falsehoods, wild speculation and poisonous calumnies, attacking Nicaragua’s Sandinista government led by Daniel Ortega as a dictatorship. It appeared in Latin America Goes Global, closely associated with the center right Project Syndicate media network. Project Syndicate lists among its associate media right-wing media outlets like Clarin and La Nación in Argentina, Folha de Sao Paulo and O Globo in Brazil and El Nacional in Venezuela.
So it is no surprise that in Nicaragua its associate media outlet should be the virulently anti-Sandinista Confidencial, which published the Spanish version of Ellis’s attack, making Ellis’ accusations of dictatorship look stupid. Addressing Chinese involvement in Nicaragua’s proposed interoceanic canal, Ellis displays his ignorance of Nicaragua’s relationship with both China and Taiwan. His tendentious, ahistorical analysis betrays the mentality of an unreconstructed Cold Warrior in all its inglorious torpor. That ideological straitjacket prevents Ellis from even beginning to appreciate Daniel Ortega’s hard-headed but deep commitment to promoting peace and reconciliation based on genuine dialog. Western political leaders and their media and academic shills perceive that commitment as a sign of weakness, which explains a great deal about repeated failures of Western foreign policy all around the world.
Around the same time as the Ellis affair, Viridiana Ríos a Mexican academic associated with the U.S. Woodrow Wilson Center left Nicaragua claiming police persecution. Ríos entered Nicaragua as a tourist but then proceeded to carry out a program of interviews with various institutions for her academic research. The curious thing about her claims is that she was never actually interviewed by any Nicaraguan official, either of the police or the immigration service. But she claims her hotel alerted her to a visit by police, in fact if it happened at all more likely immigration officials, who presumably left satisfied because otherwise she would certainly have been interviewed. Ríos then supposedly contacted the Mexican embassy who allegedly and inexplicably advised her to leave for Mexico. The upshot is that Ríos visited Nicaragua only to suddenly fear, for no obvious reason, being disappeared by government officials who could easily have detained her had they so wished. Rios then, with no complications, left Nicaragua, the safest country in the Americas along with Canada and Chile, and went home to Mexico, a country with 28,000 disappeared people.
Around the same time, as the reports about Ellis and Ríos, the Guardian published a disinformation scatter-gun attack on the Nicaraguan government also firming up the false positive of Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega’s presidency as a dictatorship. The dictatorship accusations are complete baloney. Neither Ellis nor the Guardian report faithfully that even center-right polling companies agree that support for Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista political party runs at over 60 percent of people surveyed while the political opposition barely muster 10 percent support. Similar polls show massive confidence in both the police (74 percent ), the army (79.8 percent) and satisfaction with Nicaragua’s democracy (73.9 percent). Another common theme in the attacks by Ellis and the Guardian is the supposed suspension of the construction of Nicaragua’s planned interoceanic canal, based on yet another false positive -the bogus hypothesis that the canal has no finance.
The basis for this claim is sheer speculation based on the afterwards-equals-because fallacy, typified by another unscrupulous and disingenuous Guardian article from November 2015 offering zero factual support for the claim that the Canal ‘s construction has been postponed for financial reasons. That report and numerous others reflect the outright dishonesty of the Canal’s critics. From the outset the canal’s critics accused the government and HKND, the Chinese company building the canal, of moving too quickly and failing to take into account environmental concerns and also for an alleged lack of transparency. When the government and the HKND took on board recommendations from the ERM environmental impact study to do more environmental studies, the Canal’s critics changed tack, accusing the government of covering up that the Canal has been delayed because HKND has run out of money. That claim seems to originate in Western psy-warfare outlets in Asia like the South China Morning Post and the Bangkok Post which have consistently run attack pieces on HKND’s owner, Wang Jing.
This standard operating intellectual dishonesty by NATO psy-warfare outlets like the Guardian, omits various inconvenient facts. For example, preparatory work on the Canal route continues with various studies in progress, including aerial surveys by an Australian company, one of whose pilots, Canadian Grant Atkinson tragically died in a crash late last year. This year, the government reached a conclusive agreement with local indigenous groups affected by the Canal after an extensive process of consultation. This year too, Nicaragua has signed a memorandum of understanding with Antwerp’s Maritime Academy to train the pilots who will guide shipping through the Canal and also a cooperation agreement with the UK Hydrographic Office for training and advice in relation to the hydrographic maps the Canal will need. This is hardly the behavior of people managing a project in crisis. That said, the global economic environment right now is so uncertain that investors in any large project let alone one as huge as the Nicaraguan Canal will certainly be wary.
The global economic context and the Canal’s geostrategic aspect receive a more rational treatment than Ellis’ self-serving rant in an article by Nil Nikandrov. Even Nikandrov seems to accept as fact the Guardian’s entirely speculative claim that the Canal’s financing is in crisis, but he rightly treats Ellis’s Cold War style anti-Sandinista hysteria with amused scepticism. In fact, neither Nikandrov nor Ellis make the obvious point that the strongest geostrategic reality in relation to the Canal is that, should U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea accentuate into outright confrontation, China could not defend militarily the strong investment by Chinese companies in Nicaragua’s Canal. In any case, Nikandrov, rightly points out with regard to Nicaragua’s economy, “Nicaragua’s socioeconomic progress, Nicaraguans’ improved standard of living, and the stability and security there (compared to the increase in crime in most Central American countries) can all largely be credited to President Ortega.”
But even that reality can be turned on its head in the hands of a butterfly columnist as Bloomberg’s Mac Margolis demonstrated in his July 4 article “Nicaragua Prospers Under an Ex-Guerrilla.” Just for a change Bloomberg’s editors omitted their trademark “unexpectedly”, usually slipped in to any headline reporting unpalatable news. But the premier U.S. business news site could only finally recognize the incredible progress achieved by Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government by at the same time smearing and denigrating President Ortega in the process. On the positive side Margolis recognizes, “the Nicaraguan economy grew 4.9 percent last year and has averaged 5.2 percent for the last five. Although three in 10 Nicaraguans are poor, unemployment and inflation are low. Public sector debt is a modest 2.2 percent of gross domestic product.”
That apart, Margolis writes, “Ortega’s critics know a darker side. Consider the ever-accommodating Nicaraguan Supreme Court, which last week deposed opposition leader Eduardo Montealegre as head of the Independent Liberal Party – essentially clearing the way for Ortega to run unchallenged in the November elections.” This is identical to the dishonest argument in Nina Lakhani’s Guardian article. Montealegre’s PLI had around 3 percent support, under the new PLI leader that seems to have crept up to around 5 percent. The Supreme Court decision made no difference to the fact that Nicaragua’s political opposition has been incapable of a serious electoral challenge to Daniel Ortega since before the last elections in 2011. Since then Daniel Ortega’s popularity has grown while support for the Nicaraguan opposition has collapsed. Implicitly contradicting himself, Margolis acknowledges that fact but goes on to make speculative, fact-free accusations of corruption, directly in relation to Nicaragua’s proposed Canal.
Without being specific he hints at widespread opposition to the Canal in Nicaragua, writing “a shadowy project that Ortega farmed out to Chinese investors led by billionaire Wang Jing. Ground has yet to be broken on the US$50 billion development, but Nicaraguans have raised a stink over the lavishly generous terms of the deal”. While opposition to the Canal certainly does exist, 73 percent of people in Nicaragua support it. Evan Ellis mentions an alleged opposition demonstration of 400,000 people, which is simply untrue. The biggest demonstration against the Canal drew about 40,000 people back in 2014 when Nicaragua’s political opposition bussed people to a march from all over the country. Plenty of information is available about the Canal and Margolis has no facts to back up his baseless accusation of corruption “I’d wager a fistful of Nicaraguan córdobas that ‘Presidente-Comandante Daniel’ has something he’s uneager to share.”
Only the crass Americanist mind set could provoke such presumptuous contempt for the opinion of the great majority of Nicaraguans. Margolis really seems to believe Nicaraguans are so stupid as to support a President who he alleges is self-evidently corrupt. In fact, Margolis’ discredited protagonist, Eduardo Montealegre, has precisely the kind of corruption tainted track record so familiar from the U.S. government deregulation of Wall Street. Montealegre was the Nicaraguan Treasury Minister under a U.S. supported right wing government and oversaw a massive bailout of Nicaragua’s rotten banking system from which his own bank benefited directly at the time. Perfectly natural then for a Bloomberg columnist to highlight Montealegre while attacking Daniel Ortega who rescued Nicaragua from precisely that culture of abject corruption. This banal irrational attack on Daniel Ortega deliberately obscures the reasons for Nicaragua’s economic success, which shows up current US and European economic policy as faith based nonsense.
Domestically, President Ortega has prioritized poverty reduction, implementing very successful socialist redistributive policies and extensive infrastructure development. Overseas, his Sandinista government has dramatically diversified commercial and development cooperation relationships, in particular structuring Venezuela’s aid in a way equivalent to deficit spending, whose success contrasts sharply with the mindless futility of current Western economic policy. Contradicting the Bloomberg article, Nil Nikandrov is much closer to reality when he writes that Ortega is, “a faithful defender of Nicaragua’s interests on the international stage and enjoys the support of the vast majority of Nicaraguans.” As the NATO country psychological warfare media crank up their attacks on Nicaragua in an election year, it remains to be seen whether Nikandrov is right when he argues, “the subversive activities of the U.S. intelligence services and their ‘strategy of chaos’ will not work in Nicaragua.”