February 10, 2016
SHOW NOTES AND MP3: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=17810
Although it gets short shrift in the history textbooks, in many ways the modern American empire can find its origins in the Spanish-American War. Today we talk to James Perloff of JamesPerloff.com about his article on the war, “Trial Run for Interventionism,” and how the bankers used their media and political connections to launch the war and introduce foreign interventionism to the American psyche.
In an interview with RT, Russian military analyst Alexander Zhilin said that US media allegations that Russia is pursuing its own interests in Syria are “absolute nonsense”, given that Moscow “cooperates there with the legitimately elected president.”
He also pointed to Washington’s hypocritical statements about the necessity of fighting terrorism, saying they came as the White House continued to use terrorism as a major mechanism of its foreign policy.
“Just think about it: if a country with a military budget exceeding the consolidated budget of all the countries in the world uses terrorism as the main instrument of its foreign policy, fighting terrorism is almost impossible”, Zhilin said.
“My question is: who are you to make such calls? It means Obama who bombed out half the world’s territory must not step down, while Assad must step down, right? It is the wrong approach,” he said.
According to him, Washington currently wages so-called network-centric warfare against Moscow, a military doctrine pioneered by the US Department of Defense in the 1990s. The goal is to translate an information advantage, enabled in part by information technology, into a competitive advantage through the robust computer networking of a well-informed, geographically decentralized force.
“The United States has started a propaganda [war] against Russia, which is why it is creating an anti-Russian coalition with the participation of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US private military companies,” he pointed out.
Zhilin expressed regret about foreign media outlets, including CNN and the BBC, being involved in this war and misinforming their readers about Russia’s air campaign in Syria. He recalled that Russia’s “participation in Syria suggests the support of the legitimately elected president,” and that “it was Washington which started the invasion without getting the UN’s go-ahead.”
“You know, I’m very sorry that the BBC and CNN, once respected media outlets, have turned into primitive propaganda and disinformation news agencies,” he said.
Zhilin’s remarks came shortly after CNN reported that the Russian air support had allowed the Syrian Army to begin liberating the strategic city of Aleppo, which was seized by militants several years ago. At the same time, CNN alleged that in Syria, Russia does not only struggle with Daesh militants but also pursues its own interests.
“I have looked through the report, it has all the characteristics of previous UN Human Rights reports on Syria. The timing is extremely suspect – released just as the Syrian army closes in on Aleppo.We have seen a great spike in propaganda in the past few days, against Russian air strikes and over the number of civilians building up on the Syrian border, said to be 35,000, but 70,000 are said to be coming and yesterday the Turkish deputy PM spoke of 600,000 on the way. All this can be seen as the possible prelude to establishing a buffer zone – we can’t look after any more in Turkey, so the only answer is to look after them inside Syria ….The UN Human Rights Council speaks of 500 interviews. There is no mention of who these people are, how the UN HRC got their names and where they were interviewed. The HRC’s answer is that names cannot be released but at the same time we cannot accept as credible any report that does not/will not provide such information.There is absolutely no means of verifying it and given the HRC’s previous record, its word cannot be trusted. You might remember Navi Pillai’s hysterical statements about Syria when she was head of this council . I had a run-in with one of the committee members when i criticised a report on Syria for the same reasons I am giving here. It made many lurid accusations without providing a skerrick of reliable information. In a very heated discussion she admitted what was not in the report, that most of the people interviewed were in Turkey or Jordan, and, I would imagine, in the refugee camps.I have no doubt that being in a Syrian prison is very unpleasant experience, perhaps as unpleasant as being in prison at Abu Ghraib, but extermination is an extremely powerful word and to make an accusation of a policy of extermination without providing the evidence anyone would need to know to back it up, exposes, I think, the true agenda of this group of people.Watch how its now going to be used by governments and groups like HRW. ” ~ Jeremy Salt
TV Channel France 2 showed footage of Russian airstrikes in Syria as the work of the US-led international coalition in a fight against Daesh (Islamic State).
While covering news from Syria and reporting about airstrikes against Daesh militants, France 2 showed footage first released by the Russian Defense Ministry.
According to Russian blogger Timofei Vasiliev, the news story said that Russian airstrikes hit civilian targets, as the Russians allegedly don’t use precision bombs, instead indiscriminately bombing everything in the area. Unlike the Russians, the French Air Force, which works as part of the US-led coalition, “successfully” bombed Daesh targets, France 2 said.
The French TV channel, however, couldn’t find any footage to prove their point, so it just used footage of Russian airstrikes to demonstrate the precision of Western missiles. No big deal, right?
First, the channel claimed the Russians were off target, while the Western coalition bombed the terrorists; then France 2 showed footage filmed by the Russian Air Force as the work of the US-led coalition. Awkward.
The use of the Russian Defense Ministry’s videos wasn’t a mistake as one might think, but a deliberate lie — the Russian text underneath the footage was deleted, while the video itself is identical to that of Russian airstrikes. Below are original footage provided by the Russian Defense Ministry:
A similar thing happened on November 19, 2015, when PBS NewsHour, a daily US-television news program, used the footage of Russian airstrikes in Syria, passing them off as US airstrikes.
Unlike the US-led airstrikes campaign, which doesn’t provide footage from their operations, the Russian Defense Ministry is always prompt to release video evidence showing what exactly happened to terrorists and how their operations unfolded. Instead of accusing the Russian Air Force of not being “precise” enough and not bombing Daesh, the Western-coalition should simply shoot its own videos. It can’t be that hard.
The newspaper had plenty to say about Israeli Jewish life, however: two lengthy stories about prayer space at the Western Wall and one discussing Zionism. Each of these stories ran over a thousand words.
Two shorter news articles reported that the murderers of a Palestinian teen had been sentenced to prison and that a knife attack left one Israeli police officer dead, but nothing in either of these provided the context crucial to understanding events in the occupied territories.
Meanwhile, as the Times obsesses over Israeli identity and attitudes, the occupation grinds on, producing news that appears elsewhere. At the top of the list were two major stories: A Palestinian prisoner was near death after passing his 75th day on hunger strike, and Israeli forces carried out a massive demolition of over 20 homes, rendering more than 100 Palestinians homeless in the dead of winter.
The ordeal of Mohammed al-Qeeq, a journalist held without trial since Nov. 21 of last year, drew the attention of Israeli and international media outlets, which recounted his legal appeals, protests on his behalf and an Israeli Supreme Court decision which “froze” his detention but confined him to a hospital. (Al-Qeeq refused the offer and continued his fast.)
Al-Qeeq’s hunger strike was deemed unfit to print in the Times, perhaps because it would touch on Israel’s use of administrative detention, which holds prisoners without trial. Readers are not to know that as of last December 660 Palestinians were held in this limbo, nor were they to be informed that a number of human rights groups have protested Israel’s unsavory use of the practice.
And then there is the matter of two impoverished villages in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank, Khirbet Jenbah and Khirbet Al-Halawah, which were made even more destitute after Israeli army crews arrived last Tuesday and demolished 22 structures, displacing 110 people, including dozens of minors. The army also confiscated solar panels, which, like many of the homes, had been donated by aid organizations.
The military claimed that it destroyed Jenbah and Al-Halawah because they were located in a declared firing zone. The Israeli publication 972 Magazine, however, noted that “Jewish settlements within [the zone] have not been served with eviction orders.”
This was the largest mass demolition in a decade, and the plan to destroy villages within the firing zone has drawn international attention and a petition from world-renowned authors to spare the communities. None of this, however, was enough to draw the interest of the Times.
Instead, the Times considered it more urgent to examine the effects of a new prayer space at the Western Wall—not once, but twice—and to take a look at Zionism today. Villagers thrown out in the cold of winter and a prisoner on the brink of death took a back seat to these concerns.
The Times claims that it gives readers “the complete, unvarnished truth as best as we can learn it,” and it insists that the newspaper’s overriding goal is to “cover the news as impartially as possible.” Readers who never stray to other sources of information may actually believe this.
Once again, Russia is being featured as Dr. Evil Incarnate, the villain that regularly plays opposite peace-loving NATO nations, in a BBC program that has Moscow initiating an invasion on Latvia followed up with a nuclear strike on Britain.
And just in time for the military-industrial shopping season.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has failed Western analysts and political pundits in spectacular fashion. Despite a full-court effort to portray Russia as a barbaric, land-grabbing nation obsessed with the idea of restoring imperial real estate, Russia has stubbornly refused to play along.
Why, even dangling the fat bait of Ukraine before Russia’s nose could not get Moscow to react the way NATO had hoped it would.
In fact, while NATO has been hot on the warpath against a number of shell-shocked nations across the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa, Russia has gone to war on just one (1) occasion, and that was against Georgia, and only after the egomaniacal leader of that tiny Caucasian country tempted fate by stupidly poking the Russian bear first.
Thus, the BBC has apparently found it necessary to contrive an altered state of reality, a veritable twilight zone, to convince its audience of Russia’s ‘real’ intentions: The result is a military contractor’s wet dream, an apocalyptic bunker buster, unsubtly entitled ‘World War Three: Inside the War Room,’ that depicts a sweat-inducing showdown between Russia and NATO and the beginning of WWIII.
It’s probably safe to say I would not be playing plot spoiler by revealing here that Russia has been typecast as the aggressor.
To briefly summarize: After the Russian military rolls over little Latvia for no good strategic reason whatsoever, British military commanders and graying bureaucrats with furrowed brows huddle themselves in a bunker, deciding whether to launch Trident missiles at Russia in response.
The Daily Mail breathlessly described the tax-payer paid performance as “an utterly realistic ‘war game’” which presents “deeply troubling questions, not least with the current political row over Government plans to spend £100 billion replacing our fleet of Trident submarines.”
Eureka! At the very same time UK military contractors are salivating over the prospect of winning billion-dollar contracts to replace the Queen’s collection of Trident nuclear-armed submarines, along comes a state-funded scaremongering film, starring arch-villain Russia to lend some credence to the initiative.
Russian lawmaker Frants Klintsevich told the Russian News Service radio station the film will give NATO an opportunity to remind member states that they should crack open their tattered purses and boost their military spending.
“They [West] have always demonized Russia trying to show that it is uncontrolled and non-European. As for what happens recently… we qualified this a long time ago as an information war, a very serious and a profound one,” said Klintsevich, the first deputy chairman of Federation Council’s committee on defense and security.
“Today the US has a very serious problem of rearmament, the military and industrial sector needs to get financing. A mechanism of the corrupt American elite has been launched. This was in Iraq, is in Syria and around Europe,” the senator said.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin has provided a tongue-in-cheek critique of the BBC film.
“Unfortunately, our colleagues from the BBC have lately resorted to making public products, of quite low-quality. Therefore, we haven’t always been in a hurry to familiarize ourselves with them,” Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked whether the Kremlin has stayed up late to catch the film.
“It’s simply not worth the time it takes to watch,” Peskov said.
On the same day the BBC thriller was released, a report by the totally unbiased Rand Corporation – invoking sexed-up memories of Saddam Hussein’s alleged ability to strike the UK in 45 minutes – said that it would take just 60 hours for Russia to occupy Estonia and Latvia, and that’s not taking into account Riga’s rush-hour traffic.
“Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours,” Rand said in its report.
“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad.”
It might be worth noting in closing that former RAND chief strategist, Herman Kahn, once forwarded the insane idea of a “winnable” nuclear exchange in his 1960 book ‘On Thermonuclear War.’
This led to Kahn being the inspiration for the title character of Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy satire Dr. Strangelove.
As far as the BBC’s latest anti-Russia production goes, well, it’s just plain strange.
Robert Bridge is the author of the book on corporate power, “Midnight in the American Empire”, which was released in 2013. @Robert_Bridge
After nearly 15 years of Mideast war – with those conflicts growing ever grimmer – you might expect that peace would be a major topic of the 2016 presidential race. Instead, there has been a mix of warmongering bluster from most candidates and some confused mutterings against endless war from a few.
No one, it seems, wants to risk offending Official Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment that is ready to castigate any candidate who suggests that there are other strategies – besides more and more “regime changes” – that might extricate the United States from the Middle East quicksand.
Late in Thursday’s Democratic debate – when the topic of war finally came up – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued toeing the neocon line, calling Iran the chief sponsor of terrorism in the world, when that title might objectively go to U.S. “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, all of whom have been aiding Sunni jihadists fighting to overthrow Syria’s secular regime.
Israel also has provided help to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which has been battling Syrian troops and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters near the Golan Heights – and Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians has played a key role in stirring up hatred and violence in the Middle East.
But Clinton has fully bought into the neocon narrative, not especially a surprise since she voted for the Iraq War, pushed the disastrous Libyan “regime change” and has sought a limited U.S. military invasion of Syria (to prevent the Syrian army from securing its border with Turkey and reclaiming territory from jihadists and other rebels).
In Thursday’s debate – coming off her razor-thin victory in the Iowa caucuses – Clinton painted Iran as the big regional threat, putting herself fully in line with the neocon position.
“We have to figure out how to deal with Iran as the principal state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Clinton said. “They are destabilizing governments in the region. They continue to support Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon against Israel. …
“If we were to normalize relations right now [with Iran], we would remove one of the biggest pieces of leverage we have to try to influence and change Iranian behavior. … I believe we have to take this step by step to try to rein in Iranian aggression, their support for terrorism and the other bad behavior that can come back and haunt us.”
Iran, of course, has been a longtime neocon target for “regime change” along with Syria (and before that Iraq). Many neocons were disappointed when President Barack Obama negotiated an agreement to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remained peaceful (an accord reached after John Kerry replaced Clinton as Secretary of State). The neocons had been hoping that the U.S. military would join Israel in an air war to “bomb-bomb-bomb Iran” — as Sen. John McCain once famously declared.
Yet, there were other distortions in Clinton’s statement. While it’s true that Iran has aided Hezbollah and Hamas in their resistance to Israel, Clinton ignored other factors, such as Israeli acts of aggression against both Lebanon, where Hezbollah emerged as resistance to an Israeli invasion and occupation in the 1980s, and the Palestinians who have faced Israeli oppression for generations.
Silence on the ‘Allies’
In the debate, Clinton also avoided criticism of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for their military and financial assistance to radical jihadists, including Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and Al Qaeda’s spinoff, the Islamic State. At the urging of Clinton, the Obama administration also approved military shipments to Syrian rebels who then either turned over or sold U.S. weapons to the extremists.
Iran’s role in Syria has been to help support the internationally recognized government of Bashar al-Assad, whose military remains the principal bulwark protecting Syria’s Christian, Alawite, Shiite and other minorities from possible genocide if Al Qaeda-connected jihadists prevailed.
Clinton also ignored her own role in creating a haven for these terror groups across the Middle East because of her support for the Iraq War and her instigation of the 2011 “regime change” in Libya which created another failed state where Islamic State and various extremists have found a home and started chopping of the heads of “infidels.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who battled Clinton to a virtual tie in Iowa, took a somewhat less belligerent position at Thursday’s debate, repeating his rather naïve idea of having Sunni states lead the fight against Sunni jihadists. On the more reasonable side, he indicated a willingness to work with Russia and other world powers in support of an anti-jihadist coalition.
“It must be Muslim troops on the ground that will destroy ISIS, with the support of a coalition of major powers — U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Russia,” Sanders said. “So our job is to provide them the military equipment that they need; the air support they need; special forces when appropriate. But at the end of the day for a dozen different reasons … the combat on the ground must be done by Muslim troops with our support. We must not get involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.”
Sanders continued, “We cannot be the policeman of the world. We are now spending more I believe than the next eight countries on defense. We have got to work in strong coalition with the major powers of the world and with those Muslim countries that are prepared to stand up and take on terrorism. So I would say that the key doctrine of the Sanders administration would be no, we cannot continue to do it alone; we need to work in coalition.”
Sounding Less Hawkish
While Sanders clearly sought to sound less hawkish than Clinton – and did not repeat his earlier talking point about the Saudis and others “getting their hands dirty” – he did not address the reality that many of the Sunni countries that he hopes to enlist in the fight against the jihadists are already engaged – on the side of the jihadists.
Clinton, as she seeks to cut into Sanders’s lead in New Hampshire polls, has been stressing her “progressive” credentials, but many progressive Democrats suspect that Clinton could become a neocon Trojan Horse.
Arch-neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, has praised Clinton’s aggressive foreign policy.
Kagan, who was made an adviser to Clinton’s State Department (while his wife Victoria Nuland received big promotions under Clinton), said in 2014: “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue … it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.” [For more, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Is Hillary Clinton a Neocon-Lite?”]
Not only did Clinton vote for the Iraq War – and support it until it became a political liability during Campaign 2008 – but she rejoined the neocon/liberal-hawk ranks as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. She routinely sided with neocon holdovers, such as Gen. David Petraeus, regarding Mideast wars and Israel’s hardline regime in its hostilities toward the Palestinians and Iran.
In 2011, Clinton pushed for “regime change” in Libya, chortling over Muammar Gaddafi’s torture-murder in October 2011, “We came. We saw. He died.” Since then, Libya has descended into a failed state with the Islamic State and other jihadists claiming more and more territory.
Clinton also favored an outright (though limited) U.S. military invasion of Syria, setting up a “safe zone” or “no-fly zone” that would protect militants fighting to overthrow the secular Assad government. Over and over again, she has adopted positions virtually identical to what the neocons prescribe.
But Sanders, although he opposed the Iraq War, has hesitated to challenge Clinton too directly on foreign policy, apparently fearing to distract from his focus on income inequality and domestic concerns. He apparently has chosen fuzziness on foreign policy as the better part of political valor.
GOP Neocons Score
On the Republican side, the first week of the presidential delegate-selection process saw two candidates who mildly questioned the neocon conventional wisdom face reversals. Billionaire Donald Trump was upset in the Iowa caucuses and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul shut down his flailing campaign.
Trump has noted his opposition to the Iraq War and his willingness to cooperate with Russia in the fight against jihadist terror, while Paul pushed a libertarian-style approach that questioned neocon interventionism but not as aggressively as his father did, apparently hoping to avoid Ron Paul’s marginalization as “an isolationist.”
While Trump and Paul stumbled this week, neocon favorite Marco Rubio surged to a strong third-place finish, catapulting past other establishment candidates who – while largely me-too-ing the neocon orthodoxy on foreign policy – are not as identified with pure neoconservatism as the youthful Florida senator is.
However, even the non-neocons have opted for visceral warmongering. Tea Party favorite and winner of the Republican Iowa caucuses, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, has vowed to “carpet bomb” Islamic State strongholds and promised to see “if sand can glow in the dark,” as he told a Tea Party rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The phrase “glow in the dark” popularly refers to the aftermath of a nuclear bomb detonation.
However, as hardline as Cruz is, he still received a tongue-lashing from the neocon-flagship Washington Post for not doing a “full-neocon” when he suggested that the United States should not focus on “regime change” in Syria. Cruz has worried that overthrowing Assad’s government might pave the way for a victory by the Islamic State and other Sunni jihadist terrorists.
In a Dec. 31, 2015 editorial, the Post’s editors instead hailed neocon favorite Rubio for arguing “forcefully” for Assad’s removal and castigated Cruz for saying Assad’s ouster was “a distraction at best – and might even empower the jihadist.”
A Beloved ‘Group Think’
It is one of Official Washington’s most beloved “group thinks” that Syrian “regime change” – a neocon goal dating back to the 1990s – must take precedence over the possible creation of a military vacuum that could bring the Islamic State and/or Al Qaeda to power.
After all, it won’t be the sons and daughters of well-connected neocons who are sent to invade and occupy Syria to reverse the capture of Damascus by the Islamic State and/or Al Qaeda. So, the Post’s editors, who in 2002-03 told the American people as flat fact that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was hiding WMD, engaged in similar exaggerations and lies about Assad in demonizing Cruz for his apostasy.
“Mr. Cruz is arguing for a stridently anti-American and nakedly genocidal dictator who sponsored terrorism against U.S. troops in Iraq and serves as a willing puppet of Iran,” the Post wrote.
That is typical of what a politician can expect if he or she deviates from the neocon line, even if you’re someone as belligerent as Cruz. Any apostasy from neocon orthodoxy is treated most harshly.
There is, by the way, no evidence that Assad is “nakedly genocidal” – his largely secular regime has never targeted any specific ethnic or religious group, indeed his government is the principal protector of Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other minorities that have been targeted by Sunni extremists for death.
Nor did Assad sponsor “terrorism against U.S. troops in Iraq.” By definition, terrorism is political violence against civilians, not against a military occupation force. Assad also sought to collaborate with the Bush-43 administration in its “war on terror,” to the point of handling torture assignments from Washington.
But distortions and falsehoods are now the way of the modern Washington Post. The newspaper will say anything, no matter how dishonest or unfair, to advance the neocon cause.
But the most dangerous outcome from these pressures is that they prevent a serious debate about a most serious topic: what the next president must do to bring the costly, bloody and endless wars to an end.
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).
If you really want a lesson in how the Western popular press works, this is it.
Without question, Germany is the leading power in Europe. ZDF is its state broadcaster and most popular channel.
Together with sister network ARD; German’s are obliged to pay €17.98 per month to fund it.
This week, during a radio event in Berlin, the retired head of ZDF Bonn, Dr Wolfgang Herles, dropped a bombshell. He admitted the network, and others, takes orders from the government on what, and what not, to report.
Now, you’d expect this kind of story to be splashed across the world’s press, wouldn’t you? A former senior management figure acknowledging that his ex-employers work in tandem with the authorities to control the news agenda in such an important country? If such a revelation was made in a ‘developing’ nation, NATO media would be all over it.
The BBC, a carbon copy of ZDF and ARD in Britain, is busy promoting a documentary about a fake Russian invasion of Latvia. Meanwhile, in Germany itself, RT Deutsch and Munich’s Focus appear to be the only two significant outlets tackling the revelations. This in a country where the Dresden region was once known as the “valley of the stupid” because Western TV signals couldn’t reach much of it during the Cold War.
Many people across Europe suspect that most domestic state TV is under fairly direct control of politicians. The BBC, despite its mendacious cultivation of an image of fairness, is a pretty obvious example. It is governed by a Trust, wholly appointed by the Queen on the advice of government ministers of the day. Russia’s most popular station, the First Channel, although partially privately owned, is also administered by state appointees.
What makes Herles’ outburst so significant is his seniority. Before retiring last year, he was a prominent culture editor and presenter. In the 90’s, he hosted his own chat show, ‘Live’, and prior to these ventures, he’d been head of ZDF Bonn. At that time, Bonn was the West German capital. It’s important to understand that ZDF, while available across Germany, is technically owned by the Bundesländer (states).
Thus, Bonn-based Herles would have had far greater understanding of how German politics worked than most in ZDF’s Mainz headquarters, never mind far flung regions.
Turning a blind eye
Since the Cologne sex attacks on New Year’s Eve, there have been strong allegations that German media downplayed, or even ignored, the story. With migrants, predominately Arabic in origin, pouring into the country since last year, highlighting assaults where the alleged perpetrators were of Arab appearance could help turn public opinion against Angela Merkel’s “open-borders” policy. On the other hand, ignoring infractions by newcomers serves to keep Germans ignorant about how Berlin’s scheme could jeopardize their own safety. A lot of people are, understandably, angry about that.
Wolfgang Herles. © Wikipedia
Herles’ admission was prompted by the assertion that ordinary people have lost faith in Germany’s tightly-controlled media. “We have the problem that – now I’m mainly talking about the public [state] media – we have closeness to the government,” he revealed. “Not only because commentary is mainly in line with the grand coalition (CSU, CDU, and SPD), with the spectrum of opinion, but also because we are completely taken in by the agenda laid down by the political class.”
The retired ZDF chief went on to concede that the station took orders on what to broadcast. “The topics about which are reported are laid down by the government,” he confessed. Ironically, the Guardian, with no actual evidence, has prominently published numerous allegations of the Kremlin engaging in this practice. However, it ignores a similar assertion about Germany, which is actually backed up by a credible figure.
Of course, it’s not just the publicly-owned media; their private counterparts are also far from balanced. Bild Zeitung, Germany’s bestselling newspaper, is bound by the charter of its holding company, Axel Springer SE, “to further the unification of Europe.” Moreover, it must “support the Transatlantic Alliance, and solidarity with the United States of America in the common values of free nations.” Even the fairest editor in the world wouldn’t have much leeway under those conditions.
Pan European myopia
As it happens Germany is not alone. Last year, the Times Ireland exposed how Dublin’s state-controlled RTE routinely furnishes questions to government ministers before they appear on air. Incredibly, RTE News, currently helmed by controversial British executive Kevin Bakhurst, responded by attempting to smear The Times.
Meanwhile, in Sweden, the fervently liberal Expressen newspaper this week labeled The Daily Mail ‘racist.’ The British newspaper’s crime? Daring to report facts on the country’s migrant crisis that are precluded in Sweden. Because the domestic media refuse to cover negative stories involving migrants, many Swedes are now forced to access British and Russian media to read news about their country.
Right now, the pro-EU press is struggling to control the narrative. Dismissing rival viewpoints as “propaganda” can only work for so long. Furthermore, turning a blind eye to stories that question EU policy is a tougher proposition in the age of social media.
Last year, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine closed online comment threads on all articles about migration. Last week, The Guardian followed suit, blocking all posts related to immigration, Islam and race.
These moves aren’t a huge surprise. In recent years, journalists and commentators who refuse to fall-in-line with the liberal European consensus have been increasingly barred from the mainstream media. This stands in marked contrast to previous decades in which debate was actively encouraged and opposing views cherished. Maybe Mikhail Gorbachev wasn’t far off when he warned:”The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.”
Bryan MacDonald is a journalist. He worked in Dublin for many years, for Ireland on Sunday and the Evening Herald.
Russian Ambassador to Latvia Alexander Veshnyakov called the World War Three: Inside the War Room (BBC Two) show a ‘dangerous provocation’ that aims to discredit pro-Russian forces in Europe.
The BBC program explores a hypothetical WWIII scenario, where Russia invades Latvia after Russian nationalists boil over their lack of self-determination in Latvia. Russia then launches a nuclear strike on the British military.
“We consider this TV-program a dangerous provocation. I’ve been working in Latvia for 8 years and do not know of any separatist organization here,” Veshnyakov said in an official commentary on the Embassy’s Facebook page.
According to Veshnyakov, the TV program scenario pursues a purely political agenda.
“This scenario is absolutely contrived, going after political goals: first, to engage in an information war to demonize Russia. Second, to justify the needs of the military-political lobby to increase the spending of NATO in Europe more than 4 times. Third, to discredit any political forces in Latvia, in Europe, that treat Russia without bias.”
Relations between Russia and the West worsened in 2014, when the United States, the European Union and some other Western countries accused Moscow of fueling the Ukrainian crisis, and imposed economic sanctions against it.
Russia’s relations with NATO also deteriorated. NATO has been increasing its presence in Eastern Europe since Crimea rejoined Russia in March 2014 following a referendum the West refused to recognize as legitimate, instead blaming Moscow for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia has denied the allegations and has repeatedly stated that the bloc’s increased activities near its borders undermine regional and international stability.
NATO-Russia Council’s work was suspended on April 1, 2014, after the alliance’s foreign ministers issued a statement condemning Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
In January, media reports emerged claiming that the alliance was discussing a possible invitation of Russia to the first formal talks since the deterioration of NATO-Russia relations in 2014. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg had previously brought up the subject of reconvening the NATO-Russia Council to be used as a tool for political dialogue.
The Globe and Mail’s recent coverage of Rwanda has been schizophrenic. While South African-based correspondent Geoffrey York has done important work detailing how Paul Kagame’s government has assassinated its opponents and contributed to violence in Eastern Congo, columnist Gerald Caplan has justified its repression and echoed Kigali’s position on regional conflicts.
At the start of January York reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of President Kagame’s regime. “Village informers”, wrote York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda – a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”
A year and a half ago York wrote an explosive investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents”, which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. Since the initial investigation York has also reported on Rwandan dissidents who’ve had to flee Belgium for their safety and revealed that Ottawa failed to act after UN and Spanish court investigations concluded Canadian priests Guy Pinard and Claude Simard were killed by soldiers loyal to Kagame in the mid-1990s.
At the end of 2012 York reported on Rwanda reasserting control over the mineral rich Eastern Congo. In one of a number of insightful articles York described how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence.” The rebel group added “a [new] layer of administrators, informers, police and other operatives” in and around the city of Goma in part to “bolster” its “grip on the trade in ‘blood minerals’.” (In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead.)
While York has done what investigative journalists are supposed to do — comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable — unfortunately the Globe also publishes regular columns by an author who seems to strive for the exact opposite in the case of Rwanda.
Gerald Caplan recently wrote about political conflict in Burundi, invoking Kagame’s rhetoric of “genocide” all the while ignoring Rwanda’s role in organizing armed opposition to the Burundian government. In support of Kigali’s aggressive regional posture, Caplan continues to repeat Kagame’s rationale for unleashing mayhem in the Congo two decades after the mass killing of Rwandan Tutsi (and Hutu) in 1994. In a 2014 column he wrote: “In the Congo former génocidaires lead a violent anti-Kagame militia dedicated to ‘finishing the work’ of the hundred days.”
In another column Caplan justified the arrest of presidential opponent Victoire Ingabire and criticized the Law Society of Upper Canada after it called for the release of her American lawyer, who was also imprisoned.
And strangely, for a former NDP strategist, Caplan has sought to muzzle media that disagree with the current government’s version of Rwandan history. In 2014 he signed an open letter condemning the BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story and a year earlier wrote a piece about lobbying the University of Toronto to remove the Taylor Report, a program on campus radio, from air because it hosted critics of the Rwandan government.
Caplan has failed to inform readers about his ties to the regime in Kigali. He started an organization with Rwanda’s current Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and said he stays at her family’s hotel when visiting the country. Caplan has also spoken at a number of events in Kigali and New York organized by the Rwandan government.
So, who to believe? York or Caplan? Is Kagame a saint or dictator?
My money is on the investigative journalist.
Hillary Clinton repeats George Bush and Dick Cheney’s talking points to a tee.
Delusions on Syria prevail in official Washington
Tulsi Gabbard is one brave Congresswoman. She has challenged her party and the president saying that it’s time for Washington to halt its “illegal, counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad. I don’t think Assad should be removed. If Assad is removed and overthrown, ISIS, al Qaeda, Al Nustra, these Islamic extremist groups will walk straight in and take over all of Syria … they will be even stronger.”
Indeed, Washington’s senseless policy in Syria has been hanging out there like overripe fruit for quite some time with the mainstream media instead marching at lockstep to the tune being whistled by a large disengaged and unaccountable White House. Gabbard might go one step further to ask why Syria is the way it is in the first place since that would question Administration priorities under Democrats as well as Republicans, both of which have emphasized eliminating al-Assad for no conceivable reason that has anything to do with actual American interests.
Much has been made of Washington groupthink, which is the concept that when a meeting of senior staffers is held everyone will veer towards a point of view that is being espoused by whoever called the meeting, be they the president or one of the cabinet secretaries. It is also reflected in the output of foundations and think tanks, which rely on government access as well as funding from beneficiaries of the war economy. Current groupthink, rejected by Gabbard, is that removing al-Assad is somehow an essential precondition for any settlement of Syria’s torment.
Another prevalent groupthink that is sometimes linked to the Syria issue is that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is somehow a reincarnation of Josef Stalin and that today’s Russia is actually the Soviet Union, ready, willing and able to expand into Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Though considerable opposition to those two viewpoints can be noted in the alternative media it is not listened to in the White House.
Yet another kind of groupthink prevails within the government bureaucracies themselves, compounding the problem. From my own experience, analysts at CIA very often were scrupulous in their judgements on developments overseas but a funny thing would happen at Agency headquarters as information made its way from the ground floor up to the seventh floor where the political appointee mandarins would preside. It would become politicized and any viewpoints diametrically opposed to what prevailed at the consumer level in Congress and in the White House would be mitigated or even excised. Such is the nature of bureaucracy, which exists to support the status quo and inter alia requires a satisfied audience to prosper.
And the press fails to do its part to correct the listing ship. The rubbish that appears in the mainstream media under the rubric of “informed opinion” bears a large part of the blame because it continues to create a mythical magical kingdom in which Americans all wear white hats and go about slaying dragons because it is good for the whole wide world, even if those heathens don’t appreciate it. That is what Americans like to think about themselves apparently, all contrary evidence notwithstanding.
A piece on Syria that appeared in the Washington Post before Christmas exemplifies precisely what is wrong with the punditry that shapes the narrative that appears to drive the national consensus on what to do about terrorism and related issues. It is “Obama and Kerry’s wishful thinking on Syria,” by Frederic C. Hof, currently a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center. Hof was an army officer who had extensive service in the Middle East. He is, somewhat uncharacteristically, an actual expert on the Arab world and speaks Arabic. He joined the State Department in 2009 after an interlude in the private sector as the President and CEO of AALC, limited company, an international business consulting and project finance firm formerly known as Armitage Associates LC. In 2012 Hof served as President Barack Obama’s Special Adviser for Transition in Syria.
Hof is a bright and highly competent guy whose professional life has been closely linked to the U.S. government version of reality, a reality in which Washington calls the shots and is empowered to “draw red lines.” Relative to the U.S., all other governments are either client states or adversaries who can be disregarded or bullied into compliance. In October he wrote: “With regard to ISIL, a professional ground combat component provided by regional powers is desperately needed to work with coalition aircraft to sweep this abomination from Syria and permit a governmental alternative to the Assad regime to take root inside Syria. With central and eastern Syria free of both the regime and ISIL, an all-Syrian national stabilization force can be built. Western desires for a negotiated end to the Syrian crisis would be based, under these circumstances, on more than a wish and a hope. The United States should neither seek nor shy away from confrontation with Russian forces in Syria. Moscow will not like it if its client’s ability to perform mass murder is impeded. Russia will not be pleased if ISIL, its false pretext for military intervention in Syria, is swept from the table. Ideally, Russia will not elect to escort regime aircraft on their mass homicide missions. And it would be difficult for even Russian President Vladimir Putin to articulate outrage if ISIL is crushed militarily. But if Russia seeks out armed confrontation with the United States in Syria, it would be a mistake for Washington to back down. People like Putin will push until they hit steel. And he will not stop in Syria.”
The op-ed is saying several things, which most likely reflect the Washington consensus on foreign policy. First, it advocates a U.S. leading role in Syria in support of a currently non-existent and unlikely to exist regional force to fight ISIS thereby creating an alternative government enabling the removal of al-Assad from power and winding up with a “Western desired” democracy. Second, it characterizes Russia as supporting “mass homicide” in Syria and urges the U.S. to confront it militarily if necessary as Moscow is intent on expansion. That means that Syria somehow has become a vital American interest, important enough to go to war with Russia.
Hof’s more recent foray in the Post makes a number of similar points. First, that the Syrian civil war cannot end as long as al-Assad remains in power is described as an “objective truth” that adversaries like Russia and Iran refuse to accept. Al-Assad is described as a “barrel bomber in chief.” Iran, in particular, should “grasp the chance to become a normal state.” Hof likens the Syrian, Iranian and Russian leadership to Hitler thirty years ago in that they are being given a pass by the West and avers that they “know that Assad is the single greatest obstacle to a united front against Islamic State.” Iran is motivated by propping up a client state while Russia is into the game desirous of “humiliating the United States by preserving Assad.” The op-ed goes on to claim that delaying action for thousands of Syrians will mean “people slaughtered, maimed, stampeded, starved, tortured and raped by Assad’s people” and reiterates the call for “professional ground forces… under U.S. command” to deal simultaneously with both al-Assad and ISIS.
Given all of the above, it is no wonder that many of us find American foreign and national security policy incomprehensible. First of all, by what Act of God does the United States have a Special Adviser for Transition in Syria? Why does that position even exist? How would the White House react if the Chinese or Russians were to create a similar bureaucracy tasked with subverting the manifestly corrupt U.S. institutions and even arming “rebels” to do the job?
One suspects that antagonism towards Damascus is rooted in the fact that the United States government have been working hard in a neoconservative driven effort supported by Israel to subvert the Syrian regime ever since President George W. Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act in 2004. Al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on his own people is frequently cited as a justification for armed intervention, but there is considerable controversy over the incident at Ghouta in 2013, with many observers believing that the attack was staged “false flag” by the rebels possibly aided by the Turkish intelligence service to implicate the Syrian government. And it is easy to forget that before Syria under al-Assad became an enemy it was considered friendly, having participated in the U.S. led coalition that ousted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991 and also having supported Washington’s counter-terrorism “rendition” program post-9/11.
It is simplistic to see everything as a problem created by the Syrian government, Russia and Iran, all of whom have been described as “adversaries” of the United States even though they are actively fighting ISIS. That label would be comforting if one were a reader of the Rupert Murdoch media but Tehran’s and Moscow’s desire to stabilize the Syrian government position as a prelude to negotiations for a settlement is not exactly wrongheaded, as Congresswoman Gabbard has noted. And any narrative’s thrust more-or-less depends on where one starts. To my mind the blame for the mess in Syria and Iraq coupled with the rise of ISIS should be put squarely where it belongs: at the White House under our two most recent presidents and their advisers. The rot began in 2003 when Iraq was invaded. At that time both Baghdad and Damascus were quiet, stable and terrorist free even if they were not democracies. Neither threatened the United States and neither threatens the U.S. to this day, which makes one wonder at why al-Assad has been elevated to enemy-in-chief status by the White House and media.
The inside the beltway dismissal of Iran and Russia is classic Washington groupthink. Iran may indeed not be a “normal” nation, but that just might be due to threats against it emanating from the United States and Israel since the foundation of the Islamic Republic in 1978. We are currently witnessing the U.S. Congress and Israel cranking up the pressure to defeat implementation of the nuclear program agreement recently signed with Tehran, an effort that suggests that no matter what it does or doesn’t do Iran will never be seen as normal or even acceptable by most of the power-brokers in Washington.
And the denigration of Russia is another given, complete with the often heard but ridiculous claim that Moscow is out to “humiliate” the U.S., which often comes coupled with a reference to Hitler. Russia may have a government that is not to our liking but it has a serious and legitimate interest in preventing the spillover of Islamic insurgency into its own heavily Muslim southern federated states. Creating a cartoon image of Vladimir Putin as someone who has to be taught a lesson even though he has in fact been a largely realistic, restrained and rational player in his foreign policy, is not a serious argument. Stating that Russia is only interested in propping up a client and enabling mass murder is both sloppy and does not allow for other considerations that might actually be both sensible and legitimate while a willingness to confront major power Russia militarily over unimportant Syria is something closely akin to madness. And attributing all the mayhem in Syria to its government is similarly myopic in that it ignores the other players on the ground, to include groups supported by America’s nominal Arab and Turkish allies that the United States calls “terrorist.”
The apparent willingness among policy makers to put U.S. troops on the ground in Syria against both its government and ISIS flies against all reason given the poor track record of White House initiated military interventions over the past fifteen years. The creation of a “stabilization force” without any current Syrian government participation is laughable as even President Obama has conceded that the identification and deployment of “moderate rebels” is a bit of a fantasy. And Syria is not taking place in a vacuum. Afghanistan is rapidly sliding back under Taliban control, Iraq is chaotic and its closest friend is Iran while Libya is anarchical. Another intervention? No thanks.