A growing number of opposition groups in Syria are getting increased weapons and ammunition supplies from the US Air Force to tackle Islamic State, according to US media reports citing the country’s military.
The weapons are intended for opposition forces closing in on IS’s self-proclaimed capital Raqqa in Syria, USA Today reports.
The “expanded” airdrops are “helping ground forces take the offensive to [the Islamic State] and efforts to retake Raqqa,” Gen. Carlton Everhart, commander of the US Air Mobility Command, is quoted by the news outlet.
Currently, the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) – an alliance of various militias, mainly formed by Kurdish fighters – is continuing its push to retake territories around Raqqa. SDF is among key opposition forces being backed by the US-led international coalition in Syria.
The weapons supplies “are absolutely essential” for the irregular forces fighting on the ground, the US Air Force spokesman in Baghdad Col. John Dorrian claimed, according to USA Today.
Meanwhile, Everhart reportedly claimed that the US military is being extremely precise while delivering arms and equipment to the opposition in Syria. “We’ll get it within 10 or 15 meters of the mark,” he said.
The US-led coalition has been repeatedly conducting military airdrops for the opposition groups in Syria. However, such missions have not always gone according to plan.
Back in October 2014, a weapons airdrop by the US Air Force apparently ended up in the hands of IS terrorists, who released a video claiming to have seized the cache of arms. The weapons had been intened for the Kurdish forces battling jihadists who were besieging the Syrian town of Kobane at the time.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren later said that two bundles of weapons have been lost. While one of them was destroyed by an air strike, another “went astray and probably fell into enemy hands.”
“There is always going to be some margin of error in these types of operations,” Warren added.
In December last year, US President Barack Obama granted a waiver for some of the restrictions on the delivery of military aid to “foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals,” if those groups are supporting the US’s alleged counter-terrorism efforts in Syria.
Reacting to the decision, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the move could result in some of the weapons getting into the hands of terrorists.
Such an occurence would pose “a serious threat not only for the region, but the entire world,” he warned.
On December 9, 2016 US Democratic lawmaker Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Act bill. She alleged that the CIA in fact supplied arms to the opposition, some of whom cooperated with terrorists including al-Qaeda. “This madness must end,” she urged.
The clash between plutocratic President-elect Trump and the CIA is shaping up to be the heavyweight prize fight of the century, and Trump at least is approaching it with all the entertaining bombast of Mohammed Ali at the top of his game. Rather than following the tradition of doing dirty political deals in dark corners, more commonly known as fixing the match, Trump has come out swinging in the full glare of the media.
In that corner, we have a deal-making, billionaire “man of the people” who, to European sensibilities at least, reputedly espouses some of the madder domestic obsessions and yet has seemed to offer hope to many aggrieved Americans. But it is his professed position on building a rapprochement with Russia and cooperating with Moscow to sort out the Syrian mess that caught my attention and that of many other independent commentators internationally.
In the opposite corner, Trump’s opponents have pushed the CIA into the ring to deliver the knock-out blow, but this has yet to land. Despite jab after jab, Trump keeps evading the blows and comes rattling back against all odds. One has to admire the guy’s footwork.
So who are the opponents ranged behind the CIA, yelling encouragement through the ropes? The obvious culprits include the U.S. military-industrial complex, whose corporate bottom line relies on an era of unending war. As justification for extracting billions – even trillions – of dollars from American taxpayers, there was a need for frightening villains, such as Al Qaeda and even more so, the head choppers of ISIS. However, since the Russian intervention in Syria in 2015, those villains no longer packed as scary a punch, so a more enduring villain, like Emmanuel Goldstein, the principal enemy of the state in George Orwell’s 1984, was required. Russia was the obvious new choice, the old favorite from the Cold War playbook.
The Western intelligence agencies have a vested interest in eternal enemies to ensure both eternal funding and eternal power, hence the CIA’s entry into the fight. As former British MP and long-time peace activist George Galloway so eloquently said in a recent interview, an unholy alliance is now being formed between the “war party” in the U.S., the military-industrial-intelligence complex and those who would have previously publicly spurned such accomplices: American progressives and their traditional host, the Democratic Party.
Yet, if the Democratic National Committee had not done its best to rig the primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton, then perhaps we would not be in this position. Bernie Sanders would be the President-elect.
These establishment forces have also revealed to the wider world a fact long known but largely dismissed as conspiracy theory by the corporate mainstream media, that the two-party system in both the U.S. and the U.K. is a sham. In fact, we are governed by a globalized elite, working in its own interest while ignoring ours. The Democrats, openly disgruntled by Hillary Clinton’s election loss and being seen to jump into bed so quickly with the spooks and the warmongers, have laid this reality bare.
In fact, respected U.S. investigative journalist Robert Parry recently wrote that an intelligence contact told him before the election that the intelligence agencies did not like either of the presidential candidates. This may go some way to explaining the FBI’s intervention in the run-up to the election against Hillary Clinton, as well as the CIA’s attempts to de-legitimize Trump’s victory afterwards.
Whether that was indeed the case, the CIA has certainly held back no punches since Trump’s election. First the evidence-lite assertion that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC emails and leaked them to WikiLeaks: then the fake news about Russia hacking the voting computers; that then morphed into the Russians “hacked the election” itself; then they “hacked” into the U.S. electric grid via a Vermont utility. All this without a shred of fact-based evidence provided, but Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats last month solidified this dubious reality in Americans’ minds.
All this culminated in the “dirty dossier” allegations last week about Trump, which he has rightly knocked down – it was desperately poor stuff.
This last item, from a British perspective, is particularly concerning. It appears that a Washington dirt-digging company was hired by a Republican rival to Trump to unearth any potential Russian scandals during the primaries; once Trump had won the nomination this dirt-digging operation was taken over by a Democrat supporter of Hillary Clinton. The anti-Trump investigation was then sub-contracted to an alleged ex-British spy, an ex-MI6 man named Christopher Steele.
The Role of MI6
Much has already been written about Steele and the company, much of it contradictory as no doubt befits the life of a former spy. But it is a standard career trajectory for insiders to move on to corporate, mercenary spy companies, and this is what Steele appears to have done successfully in 2009. Of course, much is predicated on maintaining good working relations with your former employers.
That is the aspect that interests me most – how close a linkage did he indeed retain with his former employers after he left MI6 in 2009 to set up his own private spy company? The answer is important because companies such as his can also be used as cut-outs for “plausible deniability” by official state spies.
I’m not suggesting that happened in this case, but Steele reportedly remained on good terms with MI6 and was well thought of. For a man who had not been stationed in Russia for over 20 years, it would perhaps have been natural for him to turn to old chums for useful connections.
But this question is of extreme importance at a critical juncture for the U.K.; if indeed MI6 was complicit or even aware of this dirt digging, as it seems to have been, then that is a huge diplomatic problem for the government’s attempts to develop a strong working relationship with the US, post-Brexit. If MI6’s sticky fingers were on this case, then the organization has done the precise opposite of its official task – “to protect national security and the economic well-being of the UK.”
MI6 and its U.S. intelligence chums need to remember their designated and legislated roles within a democracy – to serve the government and protect national security by gathering intelligence, assessing it impartially and making recommendations on which the government of the day will choose to act or not as the case may be.
The spies are not there to fake intelligence to suit the agenda of a particular regime, as happened in the run-up to the illegal Iraq War, nor are they there to endemically spy on their own populations (and the rest of the world, as we know post-Snowden) in a pointless hunt for subversive activity, which often translates into legitimate political activism and acts of individual expression).
And most especially the intelligence agencies should not be trying to subvert democratically elected governments. And yet this is what the CIA and a former senior MI6 officer, along with their powerful political allies, appear to be now attempting against Trump.
Chances for Peace
If I were an American, I would be wary of many of Trump’s domestic policies. As a European concerned with greater peace rather than increasing war, I can only applaud his constructive approach towards Russia and his offer to cooperate with Moscow to stanch the bloodshed in the Middle East.
That, of course, may be the nub of his fight with the CIA and other vested interests who want Russia as the new bogeyman. But I would bet that Trump takes the CIA’s slurs personally. After all, given the ugliness of the accusations and the lack of proof, who would not?
So, this is a world championship heavy-weight fight over who gets to hold office and wield power, an area where the U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies have considerable experience in rigging matches and knocking out opponents. Think, for instance, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953; Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973; Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003; and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is wobbly but still standing, thanks to some good corner support from Russia.
However, it would appear that Trump is a stranger to the spies’ self-defined Queensbury Rules in which targets are deemed paranoid if they try to alert the public to the planned “regime change” or they become easy targets by staying silent. By contrast, Trump appears shameless and pugnacious. Street-smart and self-promoting, he seems comfortable with bare-knuckle fighting.
This match has already gone into the middle rounds with Trump still bouncing around on his toes and still relishing the fight. It would be ironic if out of this nasty prize fight came greater world peace and safely for us all.
Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer in the UK’s MI5 Security Service (the U.S. counterpart is the FBI).
We live in dangerous times, where the behavior espoused by Obama and Clinton has been extremely dangerous, says former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray.
Russian hackers have found themselves at the center of yet another controversy, thus helping to fuel the latest round Russophobia.
A Russian-language version of a new, highly-anticipated episode of Sherlock was leaked online before its first official airing, leading to all sorts of conspiracies.
The BBC, which owns the rights to show Sherlock, says it will carry out a full investigation of the incident.
RT: What do you think of the claim that Russia keeps a dossier on key British MPs?
Craig Murray: It seems to me unlikely. Of course there are spies – all countries more or less have spies. Russia has spies, America has spies, Britain has spies. I suppose these people have to do something to justify their salaries and the enormous cost of their organization. There is a certain amount of nonsense that goes on. But I really don’t think that Russia spends a great deal of its time keeping dossiers on British politicians with incriminating photographs and that sort of thing. I think it is a very 1950’s idea.
RT: Like in the hacking scandal, no real evidence has been put forward. Is it now acceptable to just forget about evidence?
CM: It seems quite remarkable the number of claims that we’ve seen. The so-called hacking scandal, then the wider claims from that absolutely unbelievable dossier apparently compiled by Christopher Steele about meetings where people can prove they were nowhere near the meeting; about people being sacked who weren’t sacked, and all kinds of absolutely fact-free nonsense, which the media then claims as unverifiable.
Actually, it was very verifiable – you could easily verify it wasn’t true. And now we have this stuff. I think anti-Russian stories using a secret source are going to be with us for some time. You’ve got to remember that the military and the security services have to justify their enormous budgets, and that is what this is all about.
RT: Is the worst of the hacking hysteria over now, do you think?
CM: Well, this is going to have to calm down though now, because eventually people will have to admit there is no evidence on this whatsoever, and in fact it didn’t happen. But the lack of evidence seems no barrier at all to the hysteria continuing. This sort of wave of Russophobic hysteria is something which we experienced once or twice during the Cold War at this kind of level, which I really believed the world had got over. And it is extremely sad to see it coming again when that is backed up by massive troop movements and tanks wheeling around, churning up fields all over the Europe. We live in dangerous times, where the behavior espoused by Obama and Clinton has been extremely dangerous.
Outgoing CIA chief John Brennan on Sunday launched a scathing attack on Donald Trump, warning him to watch what he says and suggesting the president-elect doesn’t understand the challenges posed by Russia.
Brennan’s stern words — which sparked a quick Twitter retort from Trump — were the latest salvo in the ongoing feud between the incoming Republican leader and US intelligence agencies, who have concluded Moscow meddled in the November election.
The 70-year-old Trump, who takes office on Friday, tweeted saying that if the Russian leader “likes” him, it would be an “asset” to help repair strained ties with Moscow.
“I don’t think he has a full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russia’s intentions and actions,” Brennan said of Trump on Fox News Sunday.
“I think Mr. Trump has to be very disciplined in terms of what it is that he says publicly,” he added.
“He is going to be, in a few days’ time, the most powerful person in the world, in terms of sitting on top of the United States government and I think he has to recognize that his words do have impact,” the CIA chief said.
“He’s going to have the opportunity to do something for national security as opposed to talking and tweeting,” he added.
“Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests.”
Brennan also bristled at Trump’s likening of the US intelligence community to Nazi Germany, calling it “outrageous.”
Once an assumption of benevolent leadership is made the tendency has been to interpret subsequent acts in benevolent terms. When George W. Bush was president this took the form of his supporters believing that Saddam Hussein brought down the Twin Towers, that Iraq had an ongoing WMD program and that the role of America was to ‘free’ the world of tyrants. All evidence to the contrary was taken as either fraudulent or partisan bickering.
The theory amongst bourgeois liberals in the early-mid 2000s was that this trait was peculiar to the more evangelically inclined supporters of national Republicans who had been swayed by the culture wars. The arrogance of the conceit is likely due in part to class difference, in part to conflation of education with intelligence (class difference) and in part to identitarian politics that well serve the powers that be. A question to ask then is: who benefits from political divisions?
The assumption precludes legitimate critique. Those doing the criticizing have to be in some sense enemies of benevolence (goes the logic). But what if the critiques derive from differences in circumstances and lived experience? This is most certainly the case when national policies like trade agreements benefit one group to the detriment of another. Who, besides economists, would give credence to an abstract benefit when their own life is being destroyed?
Whether Democrats like the idea or not, Donald Trump’s election is a result of Barack Obama’s eight years in office. Mr. Obama’s policies benefited the rich a lot, the liberal class a bit and the other 90% of the population not that much. His benevolence was not very evenly distributed. In fact, his neoliberal tendencies hurt a lot of people. And all it takes is one visit to the doctor to learn the difference between health insurance and health care.
History Shits the Bed
By the fall of 2011 the streets of Manhattan were filled once again with twenty-somethings carrying shopping bags holding as much bounty as they could carry. The cranes used to build luxury condos that had been stopped in mid-motion in 2009 were back to work. Stock and house prices were rebounding and conspicuous consumption amongst the newly revived banker and executive classes was back in the news. Pockets of economic recovery could be found around the country.
Barack Obama had saved the economy from a second Great Depression went the story-line. Obama Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was featured as a savior in glowing posters on the New York subway. The economic statistics were of economic recovery at rates of change not seen in recent history, if from levels of economic catastrophe. There was some ‘clean-up’ to be done around the edges, but America had been pulled back from the abyss.
The liberal class gave wide berth to the newly homeless who were beginning to fill certain blocks and streets. The poverty rate kept rising, even in New York, but that was because people didn’t have the skills employers were demanding assured the economists. Foreclosures continued to drive millions of families from their homes, but the Obama administration was doing what it could with ‘foreclosure relief’ programs that ‘foamed the runway’ with the lives of ordinary citizens for the benefit of Wall Street.
By 2012 bourgeois chatter had it that anyone who wanted a job could find one. Amongst the liberal elite in New York, this was largely true. But in the suburbs the distance between those hanging on and those who weren’t was growing. Foreclosure maps told a story of ongoing crisis. The clean and safe mini-estates that had been the call of the suburbs turned into prisons for the newly unemployed whose houses were worth so little that they could no longer sell them to search for employment.
But the suburbs were still relatively wealthy, if on a case-by-case basis, compared to the urban and rural neighborhoods targeted by the banks with predatory loans. Large and demographically concentrated neighborhoods, mostly poor neighborhoods of color, were partially or wholly abandoned by people who couldn’t pay their mortgages. And the banks were fine with ‘zombie’ foreclosures because they were off the hook for maintaining them and paying taxes.
If you’re poor in America you are on your own when the shit hits the fan. Kids, children, who were eight years old in 2008 are sixteen or seventeen years old now. Some I know have been able to pull their lives together after being homeless for a few years. Lots more are still sleeping in cars and trying to piece together enough work to eat. In 2017. Necessity has made them resourceful. Otherwise, they’re a lot like the rest of us.
With only superficial irony, many of the really poor kids have cell phones— a luxury, right? Did you ever try to find a job without an address or a phone number? How about apply for SNAP (food stamps)? Many of the vagrancy laws that supported Jim Crow are still on the books. If the cops want to put you in jail, they can. In America most of the ways of contending outside of corporate life are illegal. To end the suspense, this isn’t an accident.
Liberals, Meet the Deplorables
I’ve had long conversations with people who voted for Donald Trump— displaced manufacturing workers mostly who are in various stages of rebuilding their lives or watching them fall apart. Unlike the ‘deplorables’ of liberal infamy, they are basically decent people who want their lives back. For those displaced before the onset of the Great Recession, the stories have been of slow decline from well-paying jobs to hourly work or quasi-professional jobs that are still, in 2017, being diminished.
Those cut loose after 2008 saw rapid spirals down. One career mechanical engineer saw the company he had worked for for fifteen years bought out by a private equity firm in 2009. He was fired along with everyone he worked with when production was moved overseas. The workers filed a class action lawsuit to recover their pensions taken in the buyout. His wife left him the same week his house was foreclosed on. Right now he’s pumping gas at a highway rest stop to make ends meet.
Democrat ‘trade’ agreements combined with consequence-free bailouts for Wall Street place national Democrats and displaced workers and the poor on opposite sides of a vicious class war. The dominant refrain I’ve heard from the displaced across racial lines is ‘we need a fucking revolution.’ Before the DNC settled the issue in Hillary Clinton’s favor, I made my pitch for Bernie Sanders. The overwhelming pushback was: the Democrats are the Party of Wall Street and free trade agreements. The mechanical engineer knew that Bernie was toast months before I did.
Everyone Has Five Houses, Don’t They?
Democrat support for the rich and connected creates an odd dynamic for the bourgeois liberals pushing the ‘resist Trump’ movement. Whatever Democrats might say about Republican ‘obstruction,’ Barack Obama had eight years in which to enact the national Democrats’ agenda. From the perspective of those left behind— and a lot of people were, do you give four or eight more years to the people who left you behind or do you try something else?
The displaced workers I’ve met tended to know more about the Democrats’ actual policies than Democrats do, possibly because they’ve lived them. Even after Hillary Clinton lost the election Barack Obama was still pushing the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) to ‘secure his legacy.’ And lest you be unaware, the TPP isn’t a trade deal per se— even Democrat loyalist and erstwhile economist Paul Krugman agrees that it isn’t. Its purpose is to give multi-national corporations more control over our lives.
For example, it would give coal extraction companies the right to sue for lost profits from the EPA’s rule that American utilities must switch from burning coal to less polluting fuels— one of Barack Obama’s ‘signature’ environmental achievements. This would require utility customers, taxpayers or both to pay for the coal not burned and the replacement fuel, a state of affairs that would quickly force a reversal of the EPA policy. So, is Mr. Obama an environmentalist or not?
The mechanism for doing this, the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) provision, is a key part of the TPP. It works by allowing corporations to sue civil governments to recover lost profits when they enact laws to regulate environmental destruction or public health. And a big difference is that Donald Trump’s cabinet can be removed from office whereas the TPP is a civil doomsday device that is nearly impossible to undo once passed. Mr. Obama’s supporters know this, right?
A Bailout by Any Other Name Smells Just as Bad
Economists love the phrase ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ Their neo-Victorian point is that nature chooses the winners and losers in a market economy. As with the premise of benevolent leadership (above), the premise of benevolent system (capitalism) requires a kind of backward induction where all outcomes are interpreted and explained in terms of the benevolence of the system.
By continuing and extending the George W. Bush administration’s bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry Barack Obama is credited by his supporters with staving-off a ‘second Great Depression.’ Dean Baker has done yeomen’s work debunking this nonsense. On the auto industry front, Mr. Obama maintained the tiered wage structure that left new auto workers earning near-poverty wages while auto executives were back to multi-million dollar bonuses in short order. Thanks Barack.
The bailouts of Wall Street had more moving parts. For those with an interest, Milton Friedman (bear with me) and Charles Kindleberger provide histories of the Great Depression from differing perspectives. Long story short, many of the structural problems that exacerbated the impact of bank failures in the Great Depression were resolved by FDR with bank reforms. Government sponsored deposit insurance alone provided a back-stop in 2008 that didn’t exist when FDR entered office.
Sweden undertook a smaller and less complicated nationalization of its banking system in the rolling Scandinavian banking crises of the late 1980s – early 1990s. It led to full recovery of the Swedish economy in quick order. In 2009 the idea of nationalization was put forward and quickly disposed of on ideological grounds by the Obama administration. FDR had proved that banks do just fine as heavily regulated quasi-utilities. But as Timothy Geithner put it: ‘America doesn’t do nationalization.’
As Matt Taibbi reported at the time, the ‘bailouts’ were a feeding frenzy amongst connected insiders where relatives of bankers (link above); hedge fund and private equity managers were given hundreds of millions of dollars in low interest loans that only had to be repaid if those that received them felt like it (non-recourse). As I explained here and the Bank of England explains here, global central banks acted to revive the prices of assets held by Wall Street and the global rich under the manufactured delusion that ‘we all benefit’ when the rich are made richer.
Had Wall Street been nationalized when Barack Obama had the chance the driving force of global environmental catastrophe, militarism, the concentration of wealth and recurrent economic crises could have been put toward serving the public interest. But Mr. Obama was ideologically opposed to doing so. This is something Mr. Obama’s supporters still don’t get— Mr. Obama is ideologically committed to neoliberalism. By late 2016 he was still pushing the neoliberal program with the TPP.
The argument that the Obama administration saved the U.S. from a second Great Depression is complete and utter bullshit. Moreover, Mr. Obama oversaw the most corrupt redistribution of national wealth in human history with the bailouts. Lest this seem hyperbolic, go back a reread Matt Taibbi’s reporting from 2009 and 2010 (link above). For people who were paying attention in the early years of the Obama administration, the contention that Donald Trump and his incoming administration are corrupt by comparison confuses method with substance.
Try a Little Tenderness
A good way to put the charge of a ‘deplorable’ class to the test would be to resolve the economic issues that are the basis for legitimate criticism and then see where this leaves us. Barack Obama had eight years to do so. He spent the first four arguing for austerity while he gave hundreds of millions of dollars in free money to connected insiders. He spent the second four arguing that the economy was healed and that what we need is more trade agreements.
Anyone with an interest can travel outside of the bourgeois ghettoes of Manhattan, Washington and Silicon Valley to see how the rest of the country is living. Fifty years of neoliberalism have left much of the country an economic wasteland. Across the Northeast banks and private equity firms are selling houses that were emptied eight years ago and have been hidden from sight since then. Their displaced occupants are paying rent they can’t afford and are but one paycheck away from ruin. Don’t take my word for it, see for yourselves.
The U.S. is currently nearing a full-blown political crisis. Liberals are being played by Democrat Party insiders and deep-state operatives. The ignorance of history required to believe that the CIA, FBI and NSA are benevolent entities that speak the truth is breathtaking. Furthermore, if Democrats want to contend that Wall Street’s and Exxon-Mobil’s interests are benign but Russia’s aren’t (where is the evidence?), what possible problem could they have with Donald Trump’s Cabinet?
The half of the electorate that voted for Donald Trump can rightly ask Democrats where they’ve been for the last eight years. (I voted Green but would have preferred a radical Left Party to vote for). Russia didn’t force Barack Obama to be an austerity loving, neoliberal tool. When millions of people are tossed onto an economic garbage heap, it’s politics 101 to expect a response. And before you call the response ugly, take a look at what was done to those who were tossed away. How ugly was that? How ugly would it be if it was done to you?
Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.
As the eight-year term of America’s first black President draws to a close, the media are already in the process of myth-making. There’s room for an honest autopsy of a man who promised a new kind of world, and delivered merely warmed-over soundbites and a few fake tears.
“With Barack Obama’s exit the US is losing a saint.” writes Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, whilst Ann Perkins praises his “grace, decency and defence of democracy”. Lola Okolosie rhapsodises on his legacy of “warmth, love, resilience”.
Already the storyline is set – Obama was a good man, who tried to do great things, but was undone by a Republican senate, and his own “sharp intelligence”.
These people, as much as anybody, reflect the cognitive dissonance of the modern press. “Liberals”, to use their own tortured self-descriptor, now assign the roles of good guy and bad guy based purely on aesthetics, convenience and fuel for their vanity. Actions and consequences are immaterial.
For the sake of balance, here is a list of Saint Obama’s unique achievements:
- Obama is the first President in American history to be at war for every single day of an 8 year presidency.
- Obama has carried out 10x more drone strikes than Bush ever did. Every Tuesday a military aide presents Obama with a “kill list”, and the “decent, gracious” Obama picks a few names off a list…and kills them. And their families. And their neighbours. These illegal acts of state-sanctioned murder have killed hundreds of civilians in 5 different countries in 2016 alone. The only reason that number isn’t higher, is that the Obama administration re-classified all males over 18 as combatants, regardless of occupation.
- After declaring he wanted to build a “nuclear free world”, Obama committed to spending $1 TRILLION dollars on rebuilding America’s nuclear weapons.
- Under Obama, the NSA et al. were able to spy on, essentially, the whole world. When this was revealed, not a single intelligence officer or government official was prosecuted. Instead…
- Obama’s administration declared a “war on whistleblowers”, enacting new laws and initiating what they call the “Insider Threat Program”. Manning was prosecuted, Snowden sent into exile and Assange was set-up, discredited and (they hoped) extradited. It has never been more dangerous to be a government whistle-blower, than under Barack Obama
- In terms of foreign policy, despite his press-created and non-sensical reputation as a non-interventionist, American Special Forces are currently operating in over 70% of the world’s 138 countries. The great lie is that, where Bush was a warmonger, Obama has sought to avoid conflict. The truth is that Obama, in the grand tradition of the CIA and American Imperial power, has simply turned all America’s wars into covert wars.
- Before Obama came into office, Libya was the richest and most developed nation in Africa. It is now a hell-hole. Destroyed by war, hollowed-out by corruption. The “liberal” press allow him to agonise over this as his “greatest mistake”, and then gently pardon him for his good intentions. The truth is that Libya was not a mistake, or a misjudgment, or an unforeseen consequence. Libya is exactly what America wanted it to become. A failed state where everything is for sale, a base to pour illegal CIA weapons south into Africa and east into the ME. When war is your economy, chaos is good for business. When secrecy is your weapon, anarchy is ammunition. Libya went according to plan. A brutal plan that killed 100,000s and destroyed the lives of millions more. Libya, like Iraq, is a neocon success story. Syria on the other hand…
- Syria, probably the word that will follow Obama out of office as “Iraq” did his predecessor, is a total failure. Both of stated intent and covert goals. Where the press will mourn Obama’s “indecisive nature” and wish he’d “used his big stick”, the real story is one of evil incompetence, so great that it would be almost comical… if it hadn’t destroyed an ancient seat of civilisation and killed 100,000s of people. Syria (along with Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Iran and Sudan) was on the list of the 7 countries America intended to destroy, famously “leaked” by General Wesley Clark. After the fall of Libya, Syria was (essentially) surrounded by American military on all sides. Iraq, Israel, Turkey and America operating out of Libya could pour “freedom fighters” into Syria to bring down “the regime”. When that didn’t work they deployed the trusty “WMD” method, to demand “humanitarian intervention”… the Russians saw that off. Then “ISIS” was created by the CIA, as al-Qaida were before them, and their manufactured barbarism was used as a pretext for invasion. The Russians, again, saw to it that this would not happen.
- Perhaps in the hope of distracting Russia from the ME, or perhaps merely as a short-sighted punitive measure, the Obama administration’s next foreign policy target was Ukraine. Victoria Nuland’s own voice proves how much that “color revolution” was an American creation. Ukraine is broke, even more broke than it was, its people starve and freeze through the winter. The new “democratic government” has shelled 10,000 people to death in the East of the country…. using American weapons.
- In Yemen, the poorest country in the ME is being bombed to shreds by the richest…. again, using American (and British) weapons. Obama’s “defense of democracy” doesn’t extend to criticising, or even discussing, the abhorrent Human Rights record of America’s Saudi Arabian allies, and in an act of brazen hypocrisy, even supported their chairing of the Human Rights Council of the UN.
This is the world Saint Obama has created. Guantanamo is still open, and terrorist “suspects” are still held there without trial or charge (they are probably still tortured). Other “suspects” can be simply declared guilty, and unilaterally executed… anywhere in the world. The NSA and CIA are illegally monitoring the communications of half the world. If any other leader in the world claimed even 1% of this power, they would be decried as “autocratic”, and their country denounced as a “pariah state”.
The Middle-East is ablaze from Libya to Afghanistan, and from Yemen to Turkey. Relations with Russia are as precarious as at any time since WWII, thanks to America’s efforts to break Russia economically and shatter their global influence. There is no sign that America intends to back-down (see the recent red-scare style hysteria in the American press). Likewise America has positioned itself to have a massive conflict with China in the South China Sea. Obama is, in terms of influence, nothing more than a used-car salesman. His job is not to create policy, but to sell neocon ideas to the general public, but his lack of agency cannot excuse his lack of vision or morals. Under Obama’s notional leadership the world has moved to the very brink of self-immolation in the name of protecting American hegemony. Domestically America still crumbles.
He had a nice smile, and a good turn of phrase. He was witty, and cool, and looked good in a suit… but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t just more of the same. He could say the right things, and sound like he meant them, but he was still a monster. As he moves out to pasture, the press will try to spit-shine Obama’s tarnished halo, to try to convince us that he was a good man at heart and that, as politicians go, we can’t do any better.
But yes, we can.
Donald Trump is no fan of post-1979 Iran, but name me any former US President who was? However, there is one character in modern Iranian history that Trump ought to feel some level of sympathy with. That man is former Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.
Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran in 1951. He promised to make industry work for the people, he promised to make Iran into a society that served Iranian not foreign interests. Many called him a nationalist and an extremist, but his popularity did not wane.
Iran/Persia, a once proudly independent state was now a subject of western economic Imperialism. In this context, one might say that Mosaddegh wanted to ‘Make Iran Great Again’ and because of that the people supported him. Sound familiar?
Prior to Mosaddegh, Anglo-Iranian Oil, now known as British Petroleum/BP, owned Iran’s oil and the lion’s share of profits went abroad. Feeling that this was unjust, Mosaddegh nationalised Anglo-Iranian’s holdings in Iran so that Mexico… sorry Britain, couldn’t rip off the Iranian people.
This made Britain very angry. The UK elite at the time wanted Iran to be a pliant state that would not challenge the existing order. But Mosaddegh took on the establishment. So one day Britain asked the CIA to overthrow Mosaddegh and they did. In 1953 the CIA ousted him from power ushering in years of undemocratic rule which went along with the company line coming out of Washington and London.
This was one of the reasons why tensions built up in 1979, tensions which ultimately ushered in an Islamic Republic. Had Mosaddegh been allowed to govern in peace, Iran may well have remained a constitutional monarchy with some left wing and some right wing governments, but not an Islamic Republic.
Not content to overthrow democratically elected leaders abroad like Mosaddegh and Chile’s Salvador Allende, the CIA with help from Britain’s MI6 are now openly trying to discredit Donald Trump in hopes that he will be removed from office, one way or another.
It is largely unprecedented for the CIA or MI6 to subvert democracy in their own states. There are two noteworthy exceptions. The assassination of John F. Kennedy remains a dubious affair in history, although the combination of official state lies in the Warren Report and wild conspiracy theories about JFK, have made the truth almost impossible to know in full.
Likewise, in the 1970s there were rumors that a military coup would unseat Harold Wilson as British Prime Minister. There may have been some truth to the fact that some in the UK military and intelligence wanted to do so. But ultimately, this came to nothing. Of course the allegation at the time was that Wilson was a Soviet agent, but in the more sane 1970s, few in Britain of any political party actually believed this.
But this is 2016. The mainstreamers have now become the conspiracy theorists and what’s more, they are actively engaging in and cheering on an open conspiracy to over-throw the democratically elected President of the United States.
For years, the smug liberal elite criticised Alex Jones and labelled him a conspiracy theorist because he stated that the historical reasons behind the creation of America’s Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, remain valid today.
His critics and even many of his listeners thought that maybe Jones was speaking theoretically, but ultimately the modern 2nd Amendment served other purposes. Did America really still need a well-armed citizen militia? Would defending one’s liberty against tyranny really be necessary in the 21st century? Surely the British monarchy wouldn’t do anything to subvert American political independence? That last happened in 1812.
Well the more things change the more they stay the same. It is Donald Trump, the American populist who stands in the way of the American Deep state and the British establishment’s desire for the western world to be run according to their playbook.
Now, mainstream commentators are admitting the possibility of civil war in 21st century America and Donald Trump’s supporters, labelled as nationalistic, gun totting conspiracy theories are saying, ‘HEY ELITISTS, LEAVE OUR DEMOCRACY ALONE’!
There’s a new status quo in town, but there is also a new lunatic fringe…they used to be called the American political establishment.
Just when you thought ‘Fake News’ had nowhere else to go, up pops BuzzFeed to take it to a whole new level. The site’s publication of an unverified, error-filled dossier on Donald Trump and his alleged links to Russia, marks a new journalistic low.
It shows us just how desperate those who want to sabotage better relations between the US and Russia have become.
It’s also been claimed by “people familiar with the matter” that the document was the work of a former British MI6 agent – who we’re now told has “gone into hiding.”
If true, the involvement of ‘James Bond’ in this wouldn’t be the greatest surprise. For when it comes to trying to subvert democracy by playing the ‘Russian threat’ card, the UK Intelligence Services have plenty of previous experience. In fact, the ‘Golden Showers’ dossier – and the way it has come to the public’s attention – has uncanny similarities with another piece of ‘fake news’ which was making the rounds back in 1924 – and which was also designed to put the kibosh on rapprochement with Russia.
In January of that year, Britain’s first ever Labour government came to power. Labour’s economic program was timid – but what really alarmed the Establishment was the party’s stated desire to improve relations with the Soviet Union. Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald gave full diplomatic recognition to the Soviet government in February, proposed new treaties with Moscow, and opened up negotiations about a British loan to the USSR.
That simply could not be allowed to happen. After Labour’s Attorney-General dropped the prosecution of a Communist writer who had urged soldiers not to fire on their fellow workers during a strike, the Liberals and Conservatives joined up to vote for an inquiry, with the motion drafted by Sir John Simon, who later called the incident ‘Trumpery.’
A new general election was called for late October. Just four days before the poll: a sensation. Under the headlines “Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters: Moscow Orders to Our Reds; Great Plot Disclosed,” a letter appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper purporting to be from a leading Bolshevik Grigory Zinoviev.
It was marked “very secret” and contained orders on how to organize a revolution in Britain. The letter said that Labour’s recognition of the Soviet government would aid the communist cause.
The Kremlin vehemently denied the authenticity of the document. “Well, they would say that wouldn’t they,” said the Russia-bashers, with a knowing wink.
“The ‘Red letter’ caused a great stir,” wrote historian A. J. P. Taylor. “Labour was denounced as the accomplice of the Communists; alternatively as their dupe.”
Perhaps the Tories would have won anyway, but damage was done to Labour, who lost forty seats. The Conservatives returned to power after less than year out of office and didn’t sign a new treaty with Moscow. The anti-Russian Establishment could sleep easily once again – the Soviet Union’s isolation would continue.
It is now universally accepted that the Zinoviev letter was a fake. In 1999, a new report commissioned by Labour Foreign Secretary Robin Cook found that the letter was forged by a MI6 agent’s source and “probably was leaked from SIS [the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6] by somebody to the Conservative Party Central Office.”
Back in 1924, it had been the Kremlin that had been telling the truth. It was those who had not wanted better relations with Moscow – the spooks, anti-Russian politicians and their allies in the media – who were promoting ‘fake news.’ Anyone else see the parallels with today?
The Zinoviev letter of 1924 was not the only time the British intelligence services have tried to bring down those who wanted closer ties with Moscow. In his 1987 book Spycatcher, former MI5 Assistant Director Peter Wright revealed plots by M15 (and the CIA) to destabilize Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the 1960s and 70s. We know that MI5 kept a secret file on Wilson throughout his years in Parliament.
Critics of Wilson accused him of being ‘paranoiac,’ but as noted in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you. Now, in 2017, it’s not Ramsay MacDonald or Harold Wilson, but Donald Trump who’s being targeted.
‘Golden Showers,’ as dodgy a document as the Zinoviev letter, has exactly the same aim: to wreck any hopes of improved relations with Russia and to keep a Cold War going.
If The Donald continues to call for a new ‘partnership’ with Russia, then, we will be told, it’s all because he’s being blackmailed by Putin. There can be no other explanation. But, in fact, it’s the Western intelligence services and their political/media allies who are doing the blackmailing. The message to any prospective leader of the US or Britain is clear – if you don’t toe the Establishment line on Russia, we will do everything we can to destroy you. The pressure on Donald Trump to ‘conform’ on Russia is tremendous. It’s this attempt to bully foreign policy ‘dissidents’ into taking the Deep State line, and the complicit role of the media in promoting/publicizing fake news which furthers the agenda, which is the big story. When it was #PizzaGate everyone laughed, but when it was Golden Showers it was a case of: “True or not true – this is an important story which needs airing!”
And that’s because of the geo-politics.
To update the A. J. P. Taylor quote about Labour and the Zinoviev letter: ‘Trump was denounced as the accomplice of the Russians; alternatively as their dupe.’ It’s the same for any leading public figure who wants a change in Western foreign policy.
To understand why the prospect of better relations with Russia terrifies the Deep State, all we have to do – as I noted here – is to follow the money trail.
As the great Upton Sinclair might have put it, it’s hard to get someone to understand there is no ‘Russian threat’ when their (very high) salary depends on there being a ‘Russian threat’ – and promoting that ‘Russian threat’ very aggressively.
To justify its enormous budget – particularly at a time of ‘austerity’ – MI6, like NATO, needs a Russian bogeyman. Only in December, the Head of the service, Alex Younger, attacked Russia for their operations in Syria, which have thwarted the plans of the British and American elites and their regional allies for ‘regime change’ in the country.
It’s worth noting that not just the ‘Golden Showers’ dossier, but the ‘Russia hack’ claims, have been linked to British Intelligence.
Then of course there’s the various ‘pundits’ and ‘experts’ whose salaries are paid by ‘non-partisan’ think-tanks which are financed by US defense companies. And the bellicose Bear-baiting politicians whose campaigns are funded by the military-industrial establishment.
Cold War uber-hawk Henry ‘Scoop Jackson,’ whose name lives on in the hardcore anti-Russian neocon ‘think tank’ the Henry Jackson Society, was nicknamed the ‘Senator from Boeing’ because of his links to the defense industry.
The public in America and Britain might want their countries to get along better with Russia and work together in fighting genuine threats like ISIS [Islamic State, formerly ISIL]; the problem is that too many people in elite circles do not.
British leftists who are delighting in what’s happening to Trump at the moment: beware. For the very same strategy will be deployed against UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn if he continues to defy the spooks and neocon gatekeepers by calling for an end to Cold War 2.0. Who knows? A dodgy dossier on ‘Corbyn the Collaborator’ might already have been prepared and be ready for circulation to ‘sympathetic’ journalists and anti-Russian websites, whose principled opposition to ‘fake news’ and disseminating unverified claims will mysteriously disappear.
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at http://www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
The CIA, Trump and Unverified News
London — Morning breakfast news on the BBC’s Radio Four on Friday was a delightful affair filled with discussions on Russia (when do we not talk about that busy, stirring Bear these days?), Donald Trump, dossiers and the intelligence fraternity. Did it even matter that various sources have been unverified, subject matter lumped together in cumbersome conversations on fake news, sexual frolics and the like?
Discussants on the Beeb who kept listeners company over coffee included former, recently confessed spook Frederick Forsyth, for years the go-to creator of the spy narrative, and the official intelligence historian Sir Christopher Andrew.
For Forsyth, the allegations outlined by former British spy Christopher Steele that Trump found himself in prancing company with Russian hookers, dubious real estate deals targeted as bribes and a treasonous coordination with the Russian intelligence services to defeat Hillary Clinton, beggared belief. Trump was hardly that much of a buffoon, surely.
On Wednesday night, the US director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., issued a statement in the aftermath of a conversation with Trump on the Steele dossier, suggesting that the agencies had “not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable.” Naturally, despite any claims about authenticity, the report had been circulated within the deepest recesses of spook central. Clapper would never want to deny his own officials the pleasure of that smut.
The New York Times conceded that much of the story remained “out of reach – most critically the basis question of how much, if anything, in the dossier is true.” You would think that this point was most salient, rendering any other discussion empty and flatulent.
Nonetheless, the paper would go on to assert that it was “possible to piece together a rough narrative of what led to the current crisis, including lingering questions about the ties binding Mr. Trump and his team to Russia.”
With the US presidential inauguration fast approaching, the press jackals have been swarming. The tid bits offered by the Steele report are themselves shrouded, stemming from September 2015 when an anti-Trump Republican donor (naturally, we do not know the name) commissioned Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research firm stacked by former journalists turned information hit-men, to do some digging. The mission was simple: find as much debilitating dirt as possible and sink the Trump ship.
Steele, considered at one point one of Britain’s foremost Russian experts within MI6, was considered ideal for the job of funneling information to Glenn Simpson at Fusion GPS. The themes of those memos were stock standard: the old compromising (kompromat) material, with sex being central; and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee with discussion by Trump officials with Russian entities.
Trump has not done himself any favours, preferring to throw meagre carrion at the press corps, and hope that it miraculously dissipates. His polemical advisors would have been best served to tell him to shut it. News is not interesting. Allegations have become the gold dust of political debate.
This latest battle of spite and indignation reveals that internally, there is a war between claims and institutions within the United States. The intelligence community finds itself unsheathing its weapons. Trump has duly responded.
The point being missed here is the possibility that the servants of the elected commander-in-chief may actually be subverting the Republic, for all Trump’s sullen, and childish authoritarianism. Sources garnered from the very foundry of deception have assumed an aura of reliability. The argument about fake news has been turned inside out.
While care should be taken in packaging the entire US intelligence community into a neat box of anti-Trump enthusiasts, a good number of former officials were very keen that Hillary Clinton take over the reins in the White House. Views were expressed throughout the election cycle: Trump had to be defeated at all costs.
Once it became clear that Trump was gaining electoral momentum at nerve racking pace, it was important to side with the Clinton electoral team on a revived Cold War mantra: the Russians were doing terrible things, with Trump operating in the shadow of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For former CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, Trump was “the useful fool, some naïf, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”
Former CIA Director Michael J. Morell also took a step that can only be regarded as singular and institutionally troubling: coming out from the shadows to pick his preferred candidate while denigrating another.
In August, he bored readers with his resume in an opinion piece for the New York Times. (“In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties.”) He expressed a solemn view that Trump was “not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.” Russia’s Putin “had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
The Fourth Estate used to be the solemn interrogating power of the parliamentary galleries. Being unelected, it was given, as an accident of history, a certain influence. Like all power, it can be misdirected, even ill-informed. The questioners can become vessels and conduits.
Over time, that same estate has withered, becoming a faint echo of investigation and fact checking. Even in notionally democratic states, it can be co-opted. As Glenn Greenwald has argued, the most useful tool of the deep state has been the US media, “much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials.”
Leakers are punished; facts are not cross-checked. The hack now floats in an ether of speculation, fed by the unverifiable, and pampered by the intelligence official. The battles now seemingly are not over narratives of veracity but narratives of invention. Power, it would seem, to the creative in this new Republic of trouble that is the United States.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the middle of a major domestic crisis over the U.S. charge that Russia had interfered with the U.S. election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) triggered a brief national media hysteria by creating and spreading a bogus story of Russian hacking into U.S. power infrastructure.
DHS had initiated the now-discredited tale of a hacked computer at the Burlington, Vermont Electricity Department by sending the utility’s managers misleading and alarming information, then leaked a story they certainly knew to be false and continued to put out a misleading line to the media.
Even more shocking, however, DHS had previously circulated a similar bogus story of Russian hacking of a Springfield, Illinois water pump in November 2011.
The story of how DHS twice circulated false stories of Russian efforts to sabotage U.S. “critical infrastructure” is a cautionary tale of how senior leaders in a bureaucracy-on-the-make take advantage of every major political development to advance its own interests, with scant regard for the truth.
The DHS had carried out a major public campaign to focus on an alleged Russian threat to U.S. power infrastructure in early 2016. The campaign took advantage of a U.S. accusation of a Russian cyber-attack against the Ukrainian power infrastructure in December 2015 to promote one of the agency’s major functions — guarding against cyber-attacks on America’s infrastructure.
Beginning in late March 2016, DHS and FBI conducted a series of 12 unclassified briefings for electric power infrastructure companies in eight cities titled, “Ukraine Cyber Attack: implications for U.S. stakeholders.” The DHS declared publicly, “These events represent one of the first known physical impacts to critical infrastructure which resulted from cyber-attack.”
That statement conveniently avoided mentioning that the first cases of such destruction of national infrastructure from cyber-attacks were not against the United States, but were inflicted on Iran by the Obama administration and Israel in 2009 and 2012.
Beginning in October 2016, the DHS emerged as one of the two most important players – along with the CIA—in the political drama over the alleged Russian effort to tilt the 2016 election toward Donald Trump. Then on Dec. 29, DHS and FBI distributed a “Joint Analysis Report” to U.S. power utilities across the country with what it claimed were “indicators” of a Russian intelligence effort to penetrate and compromise U.S. computer networks, including networks related to the presidential election, that it called “GRIZZLY STEPPE.”
The report clearly conveyed to the utilities that the “tools and infrastructure” it said had been used by Russian intelligence agencies to affect the election were a direct threat to them as well. However, according to Robert M. Lee, the founder and CEO of the cyber-security company Dragos, who had developed one of the earliest U.S. government programs for defense against cyber-attacks on U.S. infrastructure systems, the report was certain to mislead the recipients.
“Anyone who uses it would think they were being impacted by Russian operations,” said Lee. “We ran through the indicators in the report and found that a high percentage were false positives.”
Lee and his staff found only two of a long list of malware files that could be linked to Russian hackers without more specific data about timing. Similarly a large proportion of IP addresses listed could be linked to “GRIZZLY STEPPE” only for certain specific dates, which were not provided.
The Intercept discovered, in fact, that 42 percent of the 876 IP addresses listed in the report as having been used by Russian hackers were exit nodes for the Tor Project, a system that allows bloggers, journalists and others – including some military entities – to keep their Internet communications private.
Lee said the DHS staff that worked on the technical information in the report is highly competent, but the document was rendered useless when officials classified and deleted some key parts of the report and added other material that shouldn’t have been in it. He believes the DHS issued the report “for a political purpose,” which was to “show that the DHS is protecting you.”
Planting the Story, Keeping it Alive
Upon receiving the DHS-FBI report the Burlington Electric Company network security team immediately ran searches of its computer logs using the lists of IP addresses it had been provided. When one of IP addresses cited in the report as an indicator of Russian hacking was found on the logs, the utility immediately called DHS to inform it as it had been instructed to do by DHS.
In fact, the IP address on the Burlington Electric Company’s computer was simply the Yahoo e-mail server, according to Lee, so it could not have been a legitimate indicator of an attempted cyber-intrusion. That should have been the end of the story. But the utility did not track down the IP address before reporting it to DHS. It did, however, expect DHS to treat the matter confidentially until it had thoroughly investigated and resolved the issue.
“DHS wasn’t supposed to release the details,” said Lee. “Everybody was supposed to keep their mouth shut.”
Instead, a DHS official called The Washington Post and passed on word that one of the indicators of Russian hacking of the DNC had been found on the Burlington utility’s computer network. The Post failed to follow the most basic rule of journalism, relying on its DHS source instead of checking with the Burlington Electric Department first. The result was the Post’s sensational Dec. 30 story under the headline “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, U.S. officials say.”
The DHS official evidently had allowed the Post to infer that the Russian’s hack had penetrated the grid without actually saying so. The Post story said the Russians “had not actively used the code to disrupt operations of the utility, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a security matter,” but then added, and that “the penetration of the nation’s electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability.”
The electric company quickly issued a firm denial that the computer in question was connected to the power grid. The Post was forced to retract, in effect, its claim that the electricity grid had been hacked by the Russians. But it stuck by its story that the utility had been the victim of a Russian hack for another three days before admitting that no such evidence of a hack existed.
The day after the story was published, the DHS leadership continued to imply, without saying so explicitly, that the Burlington utility had been hacked by Russians. Assistant Secretary for Pubic Affairs J. Todd Breasseale gave CNN a statement that the “indicators” from the malicious software found on the computer at Burlington Electric were a “match” for those on the DNC computers.
As soon as DHS checked the IP address, however, it knew that it was a Yahoo cloud server and therefore not an indicator that the same team that allegedly hacked the DNC had gotten into the Burlington utility’s laptop. DHS also learned from the utility that the laptop in question had been infected by malware called “neutrino,” which had never been used in “GRIZZLY STEPPE.”
Only days later did the DHS reveal those crucial facts to the Post. And the DHS was still defending its joint report to the Post, according to Lee, who got part of the story from Post sources. The DHS official was arguing that it had “led to a discovery,” he said. “The second is, ‘See, this is encouraging people to run indicators.’”
Original DHS False Hacking Story
The false Burlington Electric hack scare is reminiscent of an earlier story of Russian hacking of a utility for which the DHS was responsible as well. In November 2011, it reported an “intrusion” into a Springfield, Illinois water district computer that similarly turned out to be a fabrication.
Like the Burlington fiasco, the false report was preceded by a DHS claim that U.S. infrastructure systems were already under attack. In October 2011, acting DHS deputy undersecretary Greg Schaffer was quoted by The Washington Post as warning that “our adversaries” are “knocking on the doors of these systems.” And Schaffer added, “In some cases, there have been intrusions.” He did not specify when, where or by whom, and no such prior intrusions have ever been documented.
On Nov. 8, 2011, a water pump belonging to the Curran-Gardner township water district near Springfield, Illinois, burned out after sputtering several times in previous months. The repair team brought in to fix it found a Russian IP address on its log from five months earlier. That IP address was actually from a cell phone call from the contractor who had set up the control system for the pump and who was vacationing in Russia with his family, so his name was in the log by the address.
Without investigating the IP address itself, the utility reported the IP address and the breakdown of the water pump to the Environmental Protection Agency, which in turn passed it on to the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, also called a fusion center composed of Illinois State Police and representatives from the FBI, DHS and other government agencies.
On Nov. 10 – just two days after the initial report to EPA – the fusion center produced a report titled “Public Water District Cyber Intrusion” suggesting a Russian hacker had stolen the identity of someone authorized to use the computer and had hacked into the control system causing the water pump to fail.
The contractor whose name was on the log next to the IP address later told Wired magazine that one phone call to him would have laid the matter to rest. But the DHS, which was the lead in putting the report out, had not bothered to make even that one obvious phone call before opining that it must have been a Russian hack.
The fusion center “intelligence report,” circulated by DHS Office of Intelligence and Research, was picked up by a cyber-security blogger, who called The Washington Post and read the item to a reporter. Thus the Post published the first sensational story of a Russian hack into a U.S. infrastructure on Nov. 18, 2011.
After the real story came out, DHS disclaimed responsibility for the report, saying that it was the fusion center’s responsibility. But a Senate subcommittee investigation revealed in a report a year later that even after the initial report had been discredited, DHS had not issued any retraction or correction to the report, nor had it notified the recipients about the truth.
DHS officials responsible for the false report told Senate investigators such reports weren’t intended to be “finished intelligence,” implying that the bar for accuracy of the information didn’t have to be very high. They even claimed that the report was a “success” because it had done “what it’s supposed to do – generate interest.”
Both the Burlington and Curran-Gardner episodes underline a central reality of the political game of national security in the New Cold War era: major bureaucratic players like DHS have a huge political stake in public perceptions of a Russian threat, and whenever the opportunity arises to do so, they will exploit it.
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
The decision by the U.S. intelligence community to include in an official report some unverified and salacious accusations against President-elect Donald Trump resembles a tactic out of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s playbook on government-style blackmail: I have some very derogatory information about you that I’d sure hate to see end up in the press.
In this case, as leaders of the U.S. intelligence community were pressing Trump to accept their assessment that the Russian government had tried to bolster Trump’s campaign by stealing and leaking actual emails harmful to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Trump was confronted with this classified “appendix” describing claims about him cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.
Supposedly, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan included the unproven allegations in the report under the rationale that the Russian government might have videotaped Trump’s misbehavior and thus could use it to blackmail him. But the U.S. intelligence community also had reasons to want to threaten Trump who has been critical of its performance and who has expressed doubts about its analysis of the Russian “hacking.”
After the briefing last Friday, Trump and his incoming administration did shift their position, accepting the intelligence community’s assessment that the Russian government hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta. But I’m told Trump saw no evidence that Russia then leaked the material to WikiLeaks and has avoided making that concession.
Still, Trump’s change in tone was noted by the mainstream media and was treated as an admission that he was abandoning his earlier skepticism. In other words, he was finally getting onboard the intelligence community’s Russia-did-it bandwagon. Now, however, we know that Trump simultaneously had been confronted with the possibility that the unproven stories about him engaging in unorthodox sex acts with prostitutes could be released, embarrassing him barely a week before his inauguration.
The classified report, with the explosive appendix, was also given to President Obama and the so-called “Gang of Eight,” bipartisan senior members of Congress responsible for oversight of the intelligence community, which increased chances that the Trump accusations would be leaked to the press, which indeed did happen.
The stories about Russian intelligence supposedly filming Trump in a high-end Moscow hotel with prostitutes have been circulating around Washington for months. I was briefed about them by a Hillary Clinton associate who was clearly hopeful that the accusations would be released before the election and thus further damage Trump’s chances. But the alleged video never seemed to surface and the claims had all the earmarks of a campaign dirty trick.
However, now the tales of illicit frolic have been elevated to another level. They have been inserted into an official U.S. intelligence report, the details of which were leaked first to CNN and then to other mainstream U.S. news media outlets.
Trump has denounced the story as “fake news” and it is certainly true that the juicy details – reportedly assembled by a former British MI-6 spy named Christopher Steele – have yet to check out. But the placement of the rumors in a U.S. government document gave the mainstream media an excuse to publicize the material.
It’s also allowed the media to again trot out the Russian word “compromat” as if the Russians invented the game of assembling derogatory information about someone and then using it to discredit or blackmail the person.
In American history, legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was infamous for using his agency to develop negative information on a political figure and then letting the person know that the FBI had the dirt and certainly would not want it to become public – if only the person would do what the FBI wanted, whether that was to reappoint Hoover to another term or to boost the FBI’s budget or – in the infamous case of civil rights leader Martin Luther King – perhaps to commit suicide.
However, in this case, it is not even known whether the Russians have any dirt on Trump. It could just be rumors concocted in the middle of a hard-fought campaign, first among Republicans battling Trump for the nomination (this opposition research was reportedly initiated by backers of Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP race) before being picked up by Clinton supporters for use in the general election.
Still, perhaps the more troubling issue is whether the U.S. intelligence community has entered a new phase of politicization in which its leadership feels that it has the responsibility to weed out “unfit” contenders for the presidency. During the general election campaign, a well-placed intelligence source told me that the intelligence community disdained both Clinton and Trump and hoped to discredit both of them with the hope that a more “acceptable” person could move into the White House for the next four years.
Hurting Both Candidates
Though I was skeptical of that information, it did turn out that FBI Director James Comey, one of the top officials in the intelligence community, badly damaged Clinton’s campaign by deeming her handling of her emails as Secretary of State “extremely careless” but deciding not to prosecute her – and then in the last week of the campaign briefly reopening and then re-closing the investigation.
Then, after the election, President Obama’s CIA began leaking allegations that Russian President Vladimir Putin had orchestrated the hacking of Democratic emails and provided them to WikiLeaks to reveal how the DNC undermined Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign and what Clinton had told Wall Street bigwigs in paid speeches that she had sought to keep secret from the American people.
The intelligence community’s assessment set the stage for what could have been a revolt by the Electoral College in which enough Trump delegates could have refused to vote for him to send the election into the House of Representatives, where the states would choose the President from one of the top three vote-getters in the Electoral College. The third-place finisher turned out to be former Secretary of State Colin Powell who got four votes from Clinton delegates in Washington State. But the Electoral College ploy failed when Trump’s delegates proved overwhelmingly faithful to the GOP candidate.
Now, we are seeing what looks like a new phase in this “stop (or damage) Trump” strategy, the inclusion of anti-Trump dirt in an official intelligence report that was then leaked to the major media.
Whether this move was meant to soften up Trump or whether the intelligence community genuinely thought that the accusations might be true and deserved inclusion in a report on alleged Russian interference in U.S. politics or whether it was some combination of the two, we are witnessing a historic moment when the U.S. intelligence community has deployed its extraordinary powers within the domain of U.S. politics. J. Edgar Hoover would be proud.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
A raw and sometimes darkly comic survey of America’s treacherous political terrain
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | January 12, 2017
The books about The Wizard of Oz were written as satire on American politics, but Hollywood, in its inimitable way, turned them into a song-and-dance picture for children. Still, one scene in the film has a sense of the author’s intent. That scene is when Dorothy, in Emerald City, approaches a closet-like structure, which, as it happens, is the Wizard’s control booth for sounds and smoke and lights, his special effects for intimidating visitors and impressing them with non-existent power.
The entrance curtain happens to be open, so Dorothy sees a modest man busily pulling levers and pushing buttons and speaking into a microphone which alters his voice into a great booming one, echoing like a great organ in a cathedral. When the man realizes that he is being watched, he makes a last effort and booms out words along the lines of “Pay no attention to the man in the booth.” Of course, the jig is up, and we all understand there is no wizard.
What better allegory for events in Washington today could there be? We have booming noises and smoke and glaring lights, and it all comes from a rather sad little – little in the sense of failed – man with about two weeks left to sit at his big desk and pretend that he is a great and powerful wizard. Except, when you are President, as this man is, you can never be observed in your control booth and you have your stunts and booming claims seconded by a chorus of flacks, hangers-on, and political appointees, presumably lending a semblance of authenticity and substance.
What the controversy engendered by “the Russians did it” has achieved is almost the opposite to what was intended. Dubious claims and pretend evidence have caused lights to shine brightly over what is a blanketing fabric of dishonesty in America’s establishment. The fabric covers everything from foreign affairs and the military to the details of domestic affairs. It is immense, complex, and carefully constructed covering, and those who created it have very little tolerance for any of it being scrutinized under spotlights. Achieving this scrutiny may be regarded as Obama’s final act of failure.
Whether it is “the Russians hacked the DNC” or “America has been bombing ISIS in Syria” or “the Russians threaten Eastern Europe” or “the Russians committed atrocities in Aleppo” or “Russia shot down Flight MH-17,” the same tiresome actors making the same unsupported claims have for eight years expected that just their inflated job titles should intimidate us into believing them. Proof? Who needs that? Would I lie to you about such matters? Once you start something foolish as Obama has done, and it is widely understood as being foolish, you only weaken your authority over all the other less-obviously dubious claims you have been making. The fabric of lies becomes weakened, and that is one of Obama’s small, but unintended, achievements now.
Even as I write these words, the first big wave of the Obama-Clinton unsupported claims, unsupported, that is, except by hack appointees like James Clapper, is receding. The world quickly reached a verdict of “nonsense.” But a second wave now laps up with an equally unsupported claim that the Russians have a compromising dossier on Donald Trump, an attempt to plant the idea that Russia will have direct influence over Trump’s policies. This malicious effort at “poisoning the well” for a political successor, brings to mind the time, some years back, when the ugliest of clutch of Israeli settlers, those who swaggered around Gaza behind barbed wire enclosed-compounds, full of attitude and always toting light machine guns while under the malevolent guard of Israeli soldiers, decided to leave their hopeless situation. They quite literally poisoned the water wells they had used before strutting away. I cannot imagine a much shabbier act. But here is Obama and his appointees doing much the same thing, effectively hacking away at what little democracy America has left out of sheer maliciousness.
I don’t mean to say that such gross lying began with Obama. The wizard’s control booth for smoke and lights and thundering sounds was not invented by him. There was nothing but eight years of lies from the weird triumvirate presidency of Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush and from the corrupt and often-inept Clinton government. Lies are what big countries or organizations do when their activities will not stand up to public scrutiny. When countries secretly play dirty tricks, when they kill, and when they apply mafia-like pressure on allies and international organizations to do as they are told, they simply lie about all of it, always. Such activity has characterized America for a very long time. How can it be otherwise when you try to control the planet?
It’s just that eight years ago, we had some reason to believe Obama would be different, at least a little different, but he is not. He is just as shabby, murderous, and deceitful as his immediate predecessors, sometimes even more so. He has been at war somewhere every single day of his eight years. He has bombed seven countries. In his last year alone, he is said to have dropped over 26,000 bombs. Literally hundreds of thousands have died at the hands of the Peace Prize winner with the big boyish smile. I’ve often asked myself what it is that motivates Obama, and I don’t know. Sometimes he seems to fit the well-known pattern of the charming, smiling psychopath who secretly likes to kill.
Sometimes he just seems weak and, yes, cowardly, someone who has allowed the brass and big suits around those conference tables to run roughshod over him, leaving him with nothing but the pretense of authority. This could explain what is a remarkable sense of arrogance observed at times when he is around outsiders as a kind of psychological reflex to his living in his job under constant bullying. After all, Bush’s whole presidency was a pretense: he pretended to be president, and Cheney and Rumsfeld – the precise quality of men who, had they lived in 1930s’ Germany would have been seen happily “working towards the Führer” as they used to say – deferentially allowed him to do so as they ran everything. Bush was the first president to prove America doesn’t even need a president except to sign documents, much like the formal requirement for a witness’s signature on a legal document.
We know, too, that Bush was as close to a moron as ever held the office, because we watched his insipid face and listened to his inability to articulate a clear sentence for eight years. Sometimes, we do see glimmers of something similar from Obama, statements and behaviors that would not be expected from someone of forceful intelligence – the unsupported Russian hacking accusations being one, but also such matters as his foolish public dismissal of Russia, the only country which can literally obliterate the United States, as a great power – only with Obama we don’t see Bush’s Alfred E. Neuman look, we see a serious, stiff mien and a tone and posture of arrogance. A well-practiced cover-up behavior for inadequacies?
I don’t know, and it really does not matter. He has been a terrible president in every important respect, but he maintains a fair number of supporters who I guess are impressed with the big boyish smile, although that is seen far less often now, the baritone voice, and perhaps the sheer, unprecedented fact of a black man standing in his position. There’s no accounting for taste or popularity, as we see in every corner of contemporary celebrity culture, and American politics absolutely has an important element of celebrity culture, just as it loves to use celebrities as endorsements. Think of the last days of Hillary Clinton’s tired campaign when she had, yes, Beyoncé and Jay Z appearing in Ohio. It is hard to imagine what political or economic or social information that pair of pop celebrities had to offer voters, and it was reported by some that they were quietly paid millions for some minutes of effort to help swing the state with razzle-dazzle. After all, this was the Hillary Campaign, a glorious travelling circus that is estimated to have burned through $1.2 billion.
Many do expect something different from Trump, and we can hope their expectations are well-founded. His entire path to the presidency does show some unorthodox attitudes and methods – unorthodox, that is, by the claustrophobic standards and practices of that center of world empire, Washington, not unorthodox in some wider sense – and they show a very tough and driven man. It is simply a fact that anyone missing the last quality cannot function effectively as President in 21st-century America. The general environment in Washington, without the least exaggeration, may be compared to the proverbial snake pit or to scenes from the last days of Roman Empire.
That is why, for example, Bernie Sanders is such a hopeless hope. The man conducted an impressive crusade, displaying considerable skills, yet he just folded in the end, leaving his enthusiastic followers in limbo and giving up to Hillary Clinton who represented almost everything he opposed and who stood before him as someone who had just clearly cheated him out of the nomination through a whole range of cheats, ploys and gimmicks. Yet, he just accepted her and even did some campaigning for her.
Such a personality offers zero promise in face-to-faces with Pentagon generals, CIA Big Suits, mega-corporation presidents, and some foreign leaders who are closer to Mafiosi than politicians. What do you expect out of a little place like Vermont? It’s lovely. I’ve spent time there. But it resembles a great deal something from a backlot set for “Lassie Come Home” or “Anne of Green Gables.” I know, I know, Bernie originally came from hard-bitten New York, but the operative word there is “came.” Whatever his reasons for seeking bucolic, low-stress bliss, they do not make him material for presiding over Washington’s Chamber of Horrors.
Many Americans themselves, including both liberals and conservatives, are well aware of the dishonesty of their government, if only in a vague sense, but they know the task of doing anything about it is just too overwhelming and difficult to consider. After all, peasants on a 17th century estate hardly dared dream of changing the “natural order” in which they lived. And ordinary Americans work extremely hard to raise their families, and a great many of them do not work at all. They do not command great resources for all the costs and activities of a crusade. The general human condition in Western countries has not changed quite so much as some like to imagine over a few centuries of enlightenment and progress. A huge number of Americans count only for brief moments when their ballots are sought with sound-bites and vacuous ads. Afterwards, the establishment goes on just as before, ignoring them and getting back to the business of lying.
The papers people read – and, thanks to the spreading, corrosive effects of American imperialism, I include other Western countries, not just the United States – and the broadcasts to which they listen are uniform in discouraging any truly fresh way of looking at things and in suppressing the hope that arrangements can be much different. They universally avoid telling the truth where government prefers that they don’t. The idea of independent and principled journalism is something you only find in brochures for journalism schools or in Hollywood films.
The two major American political parties – together forming a duopoly of political power little different in overall its effect from the kind of monopoly power American authorities like to disparage in other, “less free” places – certainly do not provide much room for fresh voices or new initiatives. Over long periods, they can actually be quite stifling, much like high officials in a church concerning accepted truth and doctrine. The parties are totally dominated by money – money that can only come in the volumes required for marketing, advertising, polls, make-up artists, wardrobe consultants, facilities of every kind, publicity, and travel expenses from extremely wealthy people and special interests who are not the least interested in any significant change to a very cozy and comfortable situation.
The dominance of the Clintons in the Democratic Party through their money connections has been an arrangement to defend the status quo. It was a clever construction. The Clintons got to be center stage, play-acting as liberals and agents of change, in exchange for the kind of money which absolutely guaranteed that they never for a moment could forgot that they were just playing parts, not really doing anything of consequence. Bill Clinton’s record as President is interchangeable, remarkably so, with what might have been expected from a traditional Republican. Hillary’s record as Secretary of State made her promise for the future, if anything, far more extreme in the same direction, and especially when it came to serving special interests and waging bloody war. The woman wore $11,000 Armani suits regularly and commanded $300,000 a pop plus expenses and comforts (right down to a standard demand for a certain bottled water to be supplied) for a long series of tedious speeches on America’s military given to investment bankers, and she made private jokes about people dying, as we know she said of Julian Assange, “Couldn’t we just drone him or something?” Or there was her appalling joke about the murder of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, a man who had been a good leader to his people, “We came, we saw, he died! Ha, ha, ha!”
The Democratic Party, given its distant past, especially the now all-but-forgotten legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, is the one from which an outsider viewing America, with no close knowledge of it, might reasonably have expected to find some prospect for change. But that seems a naïve hope if you understand who are the interests keeping the wheels of the organization turning.
The Democratic Party has become completely an establishment party, and one that literally morphed into the War Party along the way. Today, it offers a menu of the lightest possible offerings of social interest – the political equivalent of a platter of Ladies’ Tearoom sandwiches and dainties served by waiters in white gloves – just to differentiate itself from the Republicans and to make Americans of any degree of genuine liberal sentiment feel a little more comfortable. Since there aren’t a great number of the latter left in America by all appearances, the offerings can indeed be extremely modest.
Of course, these menu offerings consist of suggestions, attitudes, and slogans, not hard proposals for change, real change, in anything. The Democrats’ recent history of political behavior much resembles what mega-corporations do when they stick an image of a pink bow on their product packaging for a while and run a few, likely tax-deductible, ads promising purchasers that they will be helping in the fight against breast cancer by buying the brand. Imagine a package of Marlboros with a pink bow printed on it, and you get the picture.
Nothing better represents this modern Democratic leitmotif than Hillary Clinton’s long record of sound-bite concerns on many topics accompanied by a record of no actual effort spent on doing anything beyond getting elected. She started her last campaign saying every woman who is a rape victim deserved to be believed – something surely many young women and sympathetic men found re-assuring – yet she herself had dismissed privately, out-of-hand, for years a platoon of women pointing to her own predatory husband with the same charge.
Again, her displeasure with the Electoral College – echoed recently after her defeat – was first declared back in 2000, when George Bush won with a popular minority, but there is no record of her doing any work towards amending that outdated and anti-democratic provision of the Constitution, as during her eight years as a Senator. No, that would be a huge task to undertake, and political rewards are greater for sound-bites than they are for actual slogging hard work on anything most people do not even understand. Captains on the bridge with their gold braid and brass buttons on immaculate uniforms get noticed, not the sweating engineers actually running the ship down in the boiler room.
Make no mistake, the Democrats are bedrock establishment today, a party defending mostly backward views of the world and of American society. They are nothing more than the political Coke to the Republican’s Pepsi, or vice versa. And all the endorsements and advertising in the world do not change the reality of two sugary, dyed, fizzy drinks, indistinguishable in taste to many. Eight years of Obama – a man whose first campaign saw him sometimes wearing sandals and eschewing a totemic, imperialistic American flag pin on his lapel and intoning to cheering crowds, “Yes, we can” – proved that beyond all doubt.
Political figures like Ralph Nader or Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein are pretty close to irrelevant in the steaming boiler room of real American politics. Ideas are virtually never an issue in American elections. Neither is improving government’s service to citizens, from education to healthcare. Neither is the proper financing and budgeting of government. Neither is a reduction to insane military and security spending. How can it be otherwise in this “pounding fist” of an imperial society? All such American politicians tend to remind one of some naïve political science professor lecturing a rapt first-year audience of undergraduates excited about being out of high school and entering “the real world.”
This is the center of a world empire. It maintains a gigantic military which virtually never stops fighting wars, none of them having anything to do with defense. It has created an intelligence monstrosity which makes old outfits like the Stazi seem almost quaint, and it spies on everyone. Indeed, it maintains seventeen national security establishments, as though you can never have too much of a good thing. And some of these guys, too, are engaged full-time in forms of covert war, from fomenting trouble in other lands and interfering in elections to overthrowing governments.
Barack Obama is not one of those marginal American politicians, having gained the leadership of one of the two great parties, and yet in eight years he changed almost nothing worth changing. Whether the plight of whistleblowers in America or the third-world conditions prevailing in American cities where many of his fellow black people survive in squalor. He did nothing to reform a financial system that gave the world a collapse from which it still has not recovered. He did virtually nothing about the nation’s rotting schools or rotting infrastructure. He whined about guns but never acted in a serious way on the huge problem of police who shoot people dead on the nation’s streets, more than 1,100 of them last year alone
Yet he signed, time after time, record legislation for squandering money on the military and Big Intelligence. Under his command, the Pentagon literally burned pallet-load shipments of cash on bad programs such as the failed F-35 fighter, a new super-aircraft carrier that doesn’t work, a new type of littoral combat ship that doesn’t work, and a new Zumwalt-class destroyer that has proven an embarrassment. And there are the hugely expensive and highly intrusive NSA Supercomputer Data Centers. This is not a record of which to be proud, and it is about as far from liberal or progressive as you can go.
And, of course, this “liberal,” as so many insist still on calling him, ended by killing more people than any dictator or demagogue of this generation on earth you care to name, several hundred thousand of them in his eight years. And he found new ways to kill, too, as by creating the world’s first industrial-scale extrajudicial killing operation. Here he signs off on “kill lists,” placed in his Oval Office in-box, to murder people he has never seen, people who enjoy no legal rights or protections. His signed orders are carried out by uniformed thugs working at computer screens in secure basements where they proceed to play computer games with real live humans as their targets, again killing or maiming people they have never seen.
If you ever have wondered where all the enabling workers came from in places like Stalin’s Gulag or Hitler’s concentration camps, well, here is your answer. American itself produces platoons of such people. You could find them working at Guantanamo and in the far-flung string of secret torture facilities the CIA ran for years, and you could find them in places like Fallujah or Samarra or Abu Ghraib, at the CIA’s basement game arcade killing centers, and even all over the streets of America dressed as police who shoot unarmed people every day, sometimes in the back.
Obama has told more lies than anyone could possibly count while conducting so much killing and destruction, and he has done so unblinkingly. If you have ever noticed, government officials doing shameful and illegal things do tend to lie about what it is they are doing. And when Obama wasn’t telling lies, he made secrecy and lack of transparency hallmarks of his administration. He is said to feel very harshly towards whistle-blowers and leakers. He ends his grubby term of office with baseless, self-serving public accusations comparable in every way to those of Senator Joe McCarthy of the early 1950s.
McCarthy, a Republican, was also someone the establishment quietly supported for a time. He served their purposes, until he started weaving dangerously on the road, much like a drunken driver. He departed from the accepted script and began hurling accusations everywhere, and not just accusations about “commies” in the State Department, a place the establishment of the time hated. He came to relish accusing some targets of being sexual perverts, and he attacked new target after new target, threatening the ability of government even to function. For those who don’t know, J. Edgar Hoover, perpetual director of the FBI and an early supporter of McCarthy, was gay and a cross-dresser in private.
Of course, the establishment doesn’t have to worry about the embarrassing excesses of Obama and pompous appointees like James Clapper, as they finally did about those of McCarthy, because this pair of vicious clowns faithfully did just as they were supposed to do, and they are now headed for the exit doors. But they do have to worry about Trump, a man who already has expressed intelligent skepticism over the offerings of Big Intelligence as well as intelligent skepticism about the shameful and immense waste of the Pentagon. Importantly, he has asked why the entire Mideast is on fire and why Russia should be viewed as an enemy. And that is why the likes of Obama and Clapper have taken on a last-minute, rearguard destructive operation on behalf of those fearful of change.
It is certain that Joseph McCarthy’s rise to power could not have happened without important silent support, and his fall, after pretty much disgracing himself, allowed members of the establishment to congratulate themselves in public over protecting America from such demagoguery. All of this, from beginning to end, was complete hypocrisy, the very kind of hypocrisy we have screaming at us today from Washington. A similar claque of powerful people today congratulates themselves on efforts to interfere with the proper and peaceful transition of power to a man they’ve arbitrarily labelled a demagogue.
America’s mainline press has supported the claque by painting Trump as a dangerous demagogue, and I think it is largely over their resentment for his literally hi-jacking a very tired, almost worn-out, Republican Party – which resembled a becalmed antique sailing ship going nowhere – and promising to power it off in new directions. Of course, those loyal to the Clinton-Obama War Party greedily join in the accusations against Trump, seemingly completely innocent or even unaware of behavior ranging from insider plots to steal Hillary’s nomination from a contender to killing a third of a million people in Syria and who knows how many in Libya.
Also, they literally hate the prospect that the War Party, which they have faithfully supported for years, may be crumbling. And, who knows, even the possible further prospect of its demise after recent events revealed it to the public as a mafia-like operation with little respect for democratic process or principles of any kind? Stranger things in politics have happened, and political parties are no more guaranteed eternal life than the crowds at American revival meetings who raise their arms in child-like fantasy towards some huckster-preacher banging the Bible at the podium.
You must always remember, America’s press, which loves to congratulate itself regularly on its journalistic principles, is a mature and in some ways declining industry which is owned, through consolidations, by a very small number of corporate interests who completely support the Neocon Wars and a highly aggressive American foreign policy which puts American corporate interests first, everywhere, and reduces foreign governments, such as those in Europe or Japan, to American satrapies. The dominant views of America’s establishment are not enlightened, not democratic, not open-minded. They are “me-first” and keep competitors abroad under your thumb.
The subject of the Neocon Wars raises the related issue of the Israel Lobby’s influence in American politics. These destructive wars and an associated hyper-aggressive American foreign policy reflect this influence. The term “Neocon” refers to a coterie of influential people in Washington over the last fifteen years or so, people who have openly advocated for a highly aggressive policy of asserting American global dominance, always including a subsidiary aim, expressed with the euphemism, “the birth of a new Middle East.” Eliminating any independent-mindedness in the countries of the Mideast and assuring Israel’s complete imperialistic dominance over the region are the primary goals of the wars and interventions which have cost about two million lives and immense destruction over the Bush-Obama era. The extent of much of this holocaust is allowed to remain hidden from the public by our obliging corporate press, and efforts at explaining the causes has been a great throbbing engine for the production of lies.
But what is the long-term sense of assuring total dominance by eight million people, many of them immigrants, over hundreds of millions of others with centuries of history in the region? Eight million people who have no relationship or common history or culture and views with the great masses over which they are to dominate? An essentially European, urban people who share only a religion – and many of them not even that since Israel has a high proportion of non-believers – with the ancient Hebrews who once lived there? Even that number of eight million is deceptive since it includes over a million Arabs who are accidentally, and not with full equality, technical citizens of Israel.
These terrible Neocon Wars are, in addition, largely responsible for two devastating developments in our time. The first is huge movements of terrified refugees into Europe, millions of them, causing immense difficulties and putting great stress on the very foundations of the EU.
The second is the phenomenon we call international terror, which in fact is a side effect of the Neocon Wars. A huge amount of weaponry has been scattered around in the region by supporters of the American policy. Then, large numbers of mercenaries and rootless, violent people have been deliberately recruited, paid, and supplied to assist in carrying out America’s policy, as in Libya and Syria. Finally, there are large numbers of angry young men now who seek revenge for what has been done to their homes and families. It is a witches’ brew our press deliberately confuses by calling it international terror while constantly promoting the idea of Arabs and Muslims being undependable, unstable, and backward people, a concept welcomed and supported by the residents of the American crusader fortress we call Israel. The entire effort has been a guaranteed formula for instability and human misery.
In reality, what we call international terror is largely the “blowback” of American policies which themselves amount to state terror. Israel, of course, finds comfort in headlines in the West about “international terror” since the fear of that notion helps Americans and Europeans feel a bit more bonded to the fears Israel has always felt in its position as a colony planted by violence in an alien region. Many Israelis undoubtedly feel about their millions of neighbors much the way the Old South’s planters used to feel about the large number of inhabitants in the slave quarters as they went to bed each night with pistols and daggers kept under their pillows. Fear of rebellion was constant and worked like a poisonous substance in the Old South society, even though there was only one rebellion, a small one too, that ever happened. That endless unease explains why Old South society was well known for its inclination to violence, as in the infamous “code of the Old South.” Doesn’t Israel have much the same reputation?
America’s assistance and policies keep a garrison state not only going but growing, growing through the regular seizure of their neighbors’ property, a terrible practice which successive American governments fear addressing. Why? I think the Israel Lobby’s extremely well-organized efforts in American politics explain that. Support Israel, almost unconditionally, and you will receive large campaign donations and positive press coverage (remembering, it is a much-consolidated American press owned by quite a small number of companies). Criticize Israel and your opponents will get the donations and you will get negative press coverage. This has been an on-going pattern since the days when Harry Truman first agreed to recognize Israel, against his private best judgment, at a time when he felt vulnerable because his own re-election was quite uncertain.
While in the short term this massive bloodshed and destruction may be reassuring for Israel, having pretty much everything around it flattened, over the long term I do not see how this can be anything but destabilizing.
Destabilizing just as is the $38 billion, ten-year military-assistance agreement Obama just extended to Israel, a country perfectly able to pay for its own defense. This amount vastly exceeds what the United States gives any other country, even far larger ones in far greater economic need. The amount represents an increase of more than a quarter over the previous decade’s assistance agreement. And Obama gave it without a single condition imposed on Israel at a time when Israel’s government is constantly violating laws, rights, and international norms and agreements. I can’t think of any other place on earth where it is regarded as just fine suddenly to march out and seize someone else’s farms or homes. You cannot build a sound future society for yourself that way, quite apart from the injustice and misery inflicted on others.
Yet, the press often gives the impression that Obama is no friend to Israel. It is well-known that Obama and Netanyahu personally dislike each other intensely, and Netanyahu has gone out of his way to demean or embarrass Obama several times. So, does the immense size of this military-assistance agreement reflect the influence of the Israel Lobby? I think it does, and it all points again to Obama’s total inability in office to fight for anything worth fighting for, such as conditions at least placed on a criminal government being handed a vast fortune, something approaching $500 each year for each citizen of Israel, almost a national basic personal income, if you will, supplied by America.
It is often asserted that the term “Israel Lobby” indicates prejudice, but saying that is just a form of reverse-prejudice, another version of the worn-threadbare accusation that if you criticize Israel, you are, ipso-facto, anti-Semitic. Indeed, this false idea has become as common as rain, and Israel has made considerable diplomatic efforts through the years, with some success, in Europe and in North America to have criticism of Israel criminalized in one fashion or another.
Two distinguished American scholars – John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government – wrote a serious book on the subject of the Israel Lobby, establishing the fact and of its existence beyond question. Others, too, have contributed to understanding the phenomenon.
And we also see, from time to time, events which bring the reality forcefully home. Israeli diplomats in London were just caught on video discussing bringing down British MPs regarded as unfriendly to Israel. Well, talk about direct interference in the internal affairs and elections of others! Newt Gingrich, when last running for his party’s presidential nomination, went around making speeches about how there really was no such thing as a Palestinian after receiving the best part of $20 million dollars in campaign donations from a very wealthy and avid supporter of Israel. Freshmen American Congressmen after an election are routinely “offered” – I put that in quotes because it is not an offer to be declined without political consequences – paid holidays to Israel for indoctrination. Recently, the New York Times confirmed the discovery that all of its stories concerning Israel are routinely passed by the official Israeli Censor before being published. Hillary’s most massive contributors over the years are members in good standing of the Lobby.
One of the most predictable and bordering-on-absurd regular happenings in Washington around this subject is Senator Lindsey Graham suddenly leaping to his feet at any mention of Israel which has even a hint of less-than-fulsome praise or at any proposal to give a less-than-lordly hand-out and going into paroxysms. I’ve asked myself why that would be. Why should Senator Graham, who represents Baptists in South Carolina, choose the role of political pit bull on guard for Israel? Why should he care so intensely and constantly about Israel? Well, I spent a short time reading about him and looking at photos, and I couldn’t help being struck by the distinct possibility of Senator Graham’s being gay.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being gay, unless you happen to represent South Carolina, surely one of the more backward and least tolerant states in the Union. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that Senator Graham was caught, years ago, in a “honey trap” by Mossad, and he has been given to understand that compromising photos exist. Today, he is a tireless defender of all things Israeli. It is hard to explain such sustained motivation otherwise. Exactly the same kind of thing happened to the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover early in his career. The Mafia is said to have had compromising photos of him and a male lover, and that old bull dog-faced lawman eventually became notorious for not pursuing the Mafia, allowing it decades of comfortable growth after the repeal of Prohibition.
He always chased instead almost non-existent Communists, keeping the Communist party of America’s ranks packed with undercover FBI Agents and its coffers filled with their expensed donations so that it kept the appearance of something formidable when it wasn’t and served to justify constant FBI budget increases. It might be called the “self-fulfilling prophecy” approach to spying, much like the CIA’s approach to its annual Soviet estimates during the Cold War. The estimates were always wildly inflated, and the CIA always got the budget increases it sought. Security service empires have a way of growing exponentially regardless of the threat level. They share with the military the almost magical ability to be always discovering dire new needs for their services.
The whole set of matters concerning Israel forms a huge indigestible mass at the very center of American politics. Clearly, it is better in every way to halt the Neocon wars. Clearly, also, it is better to force Israel to make peace and define its still undefined borders by accepting the status quo of 1967. Clearly, it is better to have a stable, peaceful region with good long-term relations with the United states. But, these things are easier said than done, and precisely because of the Israel Lobby which always defends Israel, even when it pursues destructive policies and goals, as it so frequently does.
A lot of people hope Trump will halt the stupid wars, and a lot of people, recognizing his political history of being an upstart without a lifetime’s obligations to the usual political crowd, think he may be in a good position to do something important in the Mideast. There is ambiguity here though, owing to some references about moving America’s embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a non-starter for peace, if ever there was one, but the references are also quite possibly a deal-maker lure, for there can be little doubt that Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israel and Palestine in the end.
At least, ending the wars is the sine qua non of anything to be called progress. It is also part of a needed de-escalation in America’s current hyper-aggressive global posture. If you want a better domestic economy, there are few better places to start than paring back the unbelievable waste of great masses of ships and planes and tanks rumbling around everywhere and creating nothing of economic value. Nothing is more wasteful and destructive than maintaining such a military establishment. No one better knows how to waste money than the military with its every movement of a truck or plane costing immensely more than the same act in the civilian economy and none of the movements producing any worthwhile good or service. And the nonsense of keeping Europe and Russia as near-enemies rather than flourishing economic partners only impoverishes everyone.
But it is not sound economic thinking or a sensible approach to world affairs which has governed America’s use of its military for years. It is indulgent, uncaring pride, the arrogance of a wealthy establishment which does what it does simply because it can. It is a formidable barrier against progress which is not going to just fade away. And Trump’s political base, while clearly excluding Neocons, does include the belly-over-the-belt types who, perhaps unthinkingly, like to see Old Glory waving everywhere. So, there is a big set of difficulties for him to work through, and it is not at all clear how he can do so.
The establishment’s waste and arrogance and paying-no-attention to ordinary people really are what motivated a lot of Americans to vote for Trump, especially when the other choice was the very embodiment of those arrogant qualities, annoyingly and patronizingly taking a moment, here and there, to nibble a piece of fried chicken with the folks in some obscure diner. Good photo-op. Americans very much feel they have a national government which behaves more as an occupying power than as a legitimate institution to serve them. And the fact that it spends so much time and money and credibility on trying to control the planet does have a tendency to influence its resources and its very attitudes at home. After all, they are occupied with earth-shattering matters abroad, and you, well, you just don’t count in the scheme of things.
But politics never provides complete change, as some naïve political thinkers like to believe. America remains a huge imperial power essentially run by wealthy people for the interests of wealthy people, and that is not going to change any time soon, but that does not preclude some changes in the way things have been conducted because not all wealthy people see their interests as being identical, and wealthy people making decisions do sometimes make very bad ones. Never mind how the Pentagon and CIA, under Obama and Bush, have stomped their heels into the necks of countless thousands of innocents and wrecked whole societies, just look on the home front at the shabby way corporate giants can behave.
We have Amazon’s Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post and turning it into a more complete propaganda factory than ever, publishing, for example, a scurrilous, libelous list of Internet sites said to be under Russian influence, a list obtained from an “anonymous source” which almost certainly just happen to reside in Langley, Virginia. We have Facebook’s shuffling, t-shirted multi-billionaire appointing himself American Guru of Truth and Fakery in the News. This from the founder of one of the most fake-filled sites on the Internet, notorious previously for fake reader “likes” which affect advertising rates, but, more importantly, an outfit which ceaselessly censors and spies on its users, sucking information from them like a Dyson whirlwind vacuum cleaner to sell to marketers and send along to the security services. Recently, when I use my Google bookmark link for Russia’s Sputnik (formerly, RIA Novosti, The Voice of Russia ), an informative and entertaining site I have checked for years, Google frequently inserts a warning page telling me that it is dangerous to proceed, a page which includes a button marked “Back to Safety,” as though I were approaching a phishing or pornographic site. This from the company that started years ago with a motto, “Do no harm,” but, of course, today Google is a vest-pocket affiliate of CIA, an outfit which does almost nothing but harm. And look at the way Microsoft introduced Windows 10, including violations of fundamental conventions on the Internet such as a pop-up “install” box whose “dismiss command” did precisely the opposite when the “x” was selected, or the way another giant, Apple, has treated some of its customers, including things like “bricking” their costly phones if any effort is made to change or repair anything.
It is simply about the arrogance of power, a phrase the late Senator Fulbright wrote years ago to describe America’s murderous and pointless crusade in Vietnam.
Politics can shake-up a few institutions which need shaking-up, expose a few rotten actors and send them packing, turn around a few dangerous policy paths, and it can grant the people at large a sense of some new possibilities. Sometimes, and this may be one of those times. But the fanatical wing of Trump supporters, especially those on the “alt-right” are almost certain to be disappointed when he does not re-create America the way “accepting Christ” is supposed to re-create a sinner.
Trump seems a man of enough independent-mindedness and independent wealth and seasoned toughness of personality to withstand the assaults he will face from the establishment in Washington. Actually, I shouldn’t say “will” because he is facing waves of them before he even takes the oath, and he is doing admirably well at handling them. There is a claque of very rich and influential people who are not going to disappear into the woodwork despite losing control now. However, he is himself a rich man with a rich man’s interests, and he is not likely to lose his sense of direction in a wave of patriotic fervor which some Americans confuse with religion. He will have done as much as any candidate could if he ends the killing and the mindless interference in the affairs of others and creates some programs which bring jobs to large numbers of now-hopeless Americans. He actually does have a chance at genuine political greatness, but I would not bet the farm on it.