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‘Operational Uncertainty’ Forced Trump to Kill CIA Syria Program – Karen Kwiatkowski

Sputnik – 21.07.2017

WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump reportedly decided to halt the training of Syrian rebels about a month ago after a meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The program originally ramped up in 2015 and was designed to produce a force of more than 5,000 troops to fight the Syrian government.

“This program increased the level of operational uncertainty beyond which Mr. Trump, McMaster and even CIA Director Pompeo were comfortable,” Kwiatkowski said on Thursday.

Trump, McMaster and Pompeo appear to have decided to shut down the CIA training program well before the US president met Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, Kwiatkowski recalled.

Contrary to neoconservative analysts who claim Putin during their talks at the G20 persuaded Trump to drop the Syria program, Trump had been prepared to scrap the CIA training program before he was elected president, Kwiatkowski pointed out.

Trump’s decision to end the CIA training program in Syria was likely to be welcomed by many US citizens, Kwiatkowski predicted.

“The CIA aid program initiated under Obama in 2013 had been embarrassing, counterproductive and confusing to many Americans,” she remarked. “It was ineffectual, and typical of most CIA field operations, operationally implemented without thorough coordination with either State [Department], the Department of Defense or local allies,” she said.

The program had aroused increasing concern among US intelligence veterans, Kwiatkowski added, noting that in the past 18 months even CIA officials had expressed concern about the ineffectiveness of the initiative.

“Four years of [Daesh], (banned in Russia) and extremist rebel defections from the US program in Syria, taking with them US weapons, training and intelligence, increases the risk factor of violating the great power goals in Syria,” she said.

The CIA program had also repeated disastrous failed US secret policies in many other conflicts around the world since World War II, Kwiatkowski added.

“The concept of aiding selected rebel groups in a civil war in order to emplace a friendly dictatorship or satrap is certainly a tried and failed US approach around the world for the past 70 years. It’s not particularly imaginative,” she said.

However, the discontinuation of the CIA program, “as with the conclusion of all welfare programs,” will be met with anger, recrimination, and simmering resentment by those who were formerly in receipt of the aid, Kwiatkowski predicted.

McConnell, the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate and McCain who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee strongly supported the CIA secret training program for rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad over the past five years, Kwiatkowski recalled.

July 21, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

US says Syria crisis needs political solution, Assad doesn’t have to go first

Press TV – July 21, 2017

US President Donald Trump’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser says the US is seeking a political resolution to the conflict in Syria and won’t insist on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s immediate ouster.

Tom Bossert said Thursday there needs to be a political outcome in Syria, not a military-imposed one that has no political strategy to fill a void in leadership.

“I don’t think it’s important for us to say Assad must go first,” Bossert said at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual gathering of intelligence and national security officials and experts.

“The US would still like to see Assad go at some point. That would be our desired outcome,” he added.

The administration of former President Barack Obama had chanted “the Assad must go” mantra on major international forums for several years.

Bossert made the remarks following news reports that Trump had decided to end a covert CIA program that has been arming, training and funding anti-Damascus militants since 2013.

US officials said that ending the CIA operation reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia. Moscow had long pushed Washington to end the covert program, which was begun by the Obama administration to overthrow Assad.

However, the CIA effort had failed to achieve its goals and some US lawmakers had proposed cutting its budget. By some estimates, the CIA trained some 10,000 militants.

For years, Damascus has accused the US of supporting militants seeking to topple the government.

Despite halting the CIA program, the US is still militarily involved in Syria. In May, Trump authorized arming the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces — a Kurdish rebel group — using Department of Defense funds.

Since 2015, Russia has been conducting cruise missile strikes and aerial attacks against terrorist positions in Syria at a request from the Syrian government. The US has been leading dozens of its allies in a military mission purportedly aimed rooting out Daesh since 2014.

July 21, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

End of CIA Training Program Removes Roadblock to Real Peace in Syria

Sputnik – 21.07.2017

President Donald Trump’s decision to end CIA training for US-backed rebel groups in Syria opens the way for peace at last and humanitarian relief for the suffering people of that country, analysts told Sputnik.

The move was widely reported in the US media on Wednesday with no denials and has been universally accepted as taking place.

Trump reportedly decided to halt the training about a month ago, after a meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, which preceded his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany earlier this month.

SCRAPPING CIA TRAINING PROGRAM OPENS WAY FOR PEACE DEAL IN SYRIA

The CIA program’s goal was to train at least 5,400 allegedly non-Islamist rebels in an armed force to fight Daesh terror group (outlawed in Russia), while also opposing the legitimate Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.

“This decision opens the door noticeably wider for a negotiated resolution of the dire political conflict (and resulting humanitarian catastrophe) inside Syria,” historian and Middle East analyst Helena Cobban, a leading expert on Syria, said on Thursday.

Continued US support for the rebel groups, some of which were extreme Islamists, had effectively blocked any moves in the past to end the conflict in Syria that has lasted nearly six-and-a-half years and cost more than 600,000 lives, Cobban explained.

“So long as the United States’ covert-action teams were working hand-in-glove with the forces working tirelessly to overthrow the government of Syria, it was hard to envision the United States also sitting down with those political forces inside and outside the country who seek a negotiated resolution,” she said.

However, Trump’s decision to end the CIA support program breathed new life into the Syrian peace process, Cobban observed.

The problems plaguing massive US military aid and training for the rebels greatly embarrassed previous President Barack Obama. Senior US officers have testified to Congress that an undetermined number of such rebels have disappeared with US military equipment and actually joined Islamist forces, including Daesh.

On September 16, 2015, then CENTCOM commanding General Lloyd Austin told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that half a billion dollars of funding for military training of Syrian rebels approved by Congress had only produced only four or five opposition troops in the field by that point.

The CIA training and support program for the rebels failed to accomplish any constructive goals, but only spread and intensified the sufferings of ordinary people in Syria, Cobban recalled.

“The CIA’s aid to the Syrian ‘rebels’ prolonged and deepened the suffering of Syria’s people throughout the whole of the past six years,” she said.

The real purpose of the program was not to defeat Daesh, but to topple the legitimate Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, Cobban stated.

The Obama administration added to the CIA program a “very bright green light… to other non-Syrian actors working to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government, like the Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Turkey… and jihadis from all around the world,” she said.

However, a series of policy shifts by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the clash in the GCC between Qatar and other member states backed by Saudi Arabia looked likely to distract these previous support sources for the Syrian rebels, Cobban observed.

“With the Turkish government now acting a lot more pragmatically than before, and with the ongoing chaos among the GCC countries, it can be hoped that… groups who supported regime change in Syria will now… die of their own accord,” she said.

The end of CIA training for Syrian rebels was also likely to give a boost to cooperation between governments and other forces in the region that genuinely opposed the Islamic State and other Islamist terror groups, Cobban noted.

Rebels seeking regime change in Damascus were now more likely to “be quashed through the cooperation of all the sincerely anti-jihadi forces in the region. There is still a lot of diplomatic work to do, but this decision from Washington makes it seem at least more possible,” she concluded.

CIA PROGRAM SHOWED 5-YEAR RECORD OF CONSISTENT FAILURES

Trump’s decision to terminate the CIA program has been interpreted by analysts as an acknowledgment that the five-year-old program has totally failed to achieve any of its goals, caused damage to US credibility and was not capable of being reformed.

Author and political activist David Swanson said Trump’s decision to end the CIA training program was a long-belated acknowledgment of its complete failure to produce any significant moderate rebel fighting force, while many recruits actually joined the Islamic State or other Islamist groups.

Swanson said the decision to scrap the rebel military training program expressed “a recognition of reality.”

Previous president Barack Obama had been praised as an alleged moderate and technocrat, yet he had ignored his own best intelligence assessments to launch the costly CIA training program after being given due warning that it would not work, Swanson recalled.

“When Obama was president he had the CIA produce a study on whether aiding proxy forces had ever succeeded on its own terms. The answer was no, yet Obama, the supposedly intelligent technocrat went ahead and did exactly what the study had found would not work,” he said.

Trump’s decision to end the CIA training program was rational and sensible, but came as a surprise because US policies in the Middle East and especially on Syria had not been guided by such considerations, Swanson observed.

“Ending it after years of predictable and predicted failure is only hard to explain because we have come to expect completely illogical madness,” he said.

Trump may also have scrapped the program as part of some quid pro quo arrangement he had negotiated with Putin at their G20 meeting, Swanson noted.

The decision to end the CIA training could indicate “some deal struck between Trump and Putin, but since neither of them is likely to tell us, we are left to speculate,” he said.

Although Trump had ordered the end of the training program, it remained to be seen whether he could ensure that the US armed forces and the CIA obeyed his orders and actually enforced the decision, Swanson cautioned.

“The decision is a good one on its own terms if it’s real. But what goes with it remains to be seen — including whether the US military and CIA actually comply with it,” he warned.

Swanson assessed that the results of the CIA training program had been entirely disastrous.

It had only produced “massive death and suffering, militarization of a region, fueling of hatred and hostility and terrorism for years to come,” he concluded.

The CIA reportedly maintained its program to provide weapons to Syrian opposition fighters since 2012. However, the private intelligence firm Soufran Group noted in a report on Thursday that the training program was ineffective and problematic since its launch.

July 21, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

CONFIRMED: Trump’s cessation of arms to Salafists had nothing to do with Russia

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | July 20, 2017

Today, Russia’s Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the issue of America ceasing to arm Salafist jihadist groups in Syria such as the FSA was not discussed in any way during Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin.

This conforms to the analysis first published yesterday in The Duran :

“While the Washington post calls this a win for Russia, in reality this will not directly effect Russia one way or another. It is however, a win for Syria.

By most reasonable accounts, the conflict in Syria could have ended far earlier if not for the CIA and other US actors arming, funding and training Salafist jihadist fighters in Syria (often referred to as moderate rebels by the western mainstream media).

As even the Washington Post admits, almost in a gloating fashion, arming such jihadists was a flagship policy of the United States under Barack Obama.

This will take a substantial deal of pressure off the Syrian Arab Army and their fight against remaining terrorists in Syria.

Ever since Trump took office, the general trajectory of US meddling in Syria shifted from arming jihadists to arming, funding and working in close military coordination with Kurdish forces.

Today’s revelation simply affirms what was long the apparent on the ground policy of the United States since February of 2017.

It is key to remember that even after this announcement, the US presence in Syria is still illegal according to international law…..

At present, there is no overt linkage to these events and Donald Trump’s meeting at the G20 summit with Vladimir Putin. …

This contradicts the assumptions made in the Washington Post that somehow the move was a “victory for Putin” or that it represented Trump capitulating to a Russian demand.

The Washington Post’s assertion that Trump’s decision was “sought by Moscow” is patently misleading and that is being charitable.

Furthermore, under Donald Trump, the United States was moving in this direction since February when it became clear that the new US administration sought to shift the focus of it’s Syria policy from arming jihadists to arming secular Kurdish forces, a move which is still illegal according to international law and opposed by a vast majority of Syrians.

While Russia, Syria and Iran have all warned that any state or non-state actors funding, arming or aiding Salafist terrorists under the guise that they are ‘moderate’ will harm Syrian and wider global security, Russia has not ever attempted to dictate US policy nor has Russia issued any threats or even suggestions to the United States on how to frame its foreign alliances.

Once again, western mainstream media totally distort Russia’s foreign policy statements in order to make Donald Trump look weak or compromised.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Trump decision to end CIA covert ops in Syria will be severely attacked by Neocons’

RT | July 20, 2017

In 2014 – 2015, $500 million of US taxpayer’s money was spent on training 54 so-called ‘moderate rebels’, most of whom immediately turned their weapons over and joined Al-Nusra or Al-Qaeda, explains investigative journalist Rick Sterling.

A Washington Post article published on Wednesday says that, according to US officials, Donald Trump decided to phase out the covert CIA program to arm and train rebels in Syria in favor of working with Russia.

However, the White House has declined to confirm the details.

RT: If this report is accurate and Trump decided to shut down CIA training of rebels in Syria, how might that affect the situation on the ground?

Rick Sterling: It’ll be a significant step. One thing that should be pointed out is that the US, through the CIA, or the Defense Department, the arming of extremist groups is illegal under international law. It has been a tremendous waste of money; between 2014 – 2015, $500 million of US taxpayer funds were spent to train a grand total of 54 so-called moderate rebels, most of whom immediately turned the weapons over and joined Al-Nusra or Al-Qaeda. That has been the real effect of it. The money and the training the CIA has provided has primarily helped Al-Qaeda. So stopping that will be a very good thing.

RT: Assuming it’s true, why do you think the White House would decline to confirm the report?

RS: I think that is indicative of the battle underway over US foreign policy. Already in the Washington Post report today, the people they quote, such as Charles Lister, are very negative on it. Lister says something like Trump’s falling into a “Russian trap.” They basically want to prolong the conflict in Syria. Lister works at the Middle East Institute, which receives significant funding from military industrial corporations, such as Raytheon. They don’t want the war and the conflict to end – they want to prolong it and even escalate it. This move from people who are little more rational in government is something that needs to be supported strongly. It is a positive step, but it is going to come under severe attack now. Trump is going to come under attack, and the decision may be undermined or sabotaged. So that is something else we need to be looking out for and hopefully guarding against.

RT: This isn’t the first time US officials and the president have issued conflicting messages. Why isn’t there a common line coming out of Washington?

RS: The mainstream media, unfortunately, has had a campaign attacking Trump’s foreign policy. The only time they cheered Trump was when he launched the missile attacks on April 6. As it subsequently turned out that US intelligence knew the Syrian government did not launch chemical weapons in the town of Khan Shaykhun – that is according to Seymour Hersh…. Hersh is one of the foremost, most well-known and regarded investigative journalist from the US, his findings have been basically censored from the mainstream media. So most people don’t know about them.

Trump went to Mike Pompeo, the CIA Director and asked him point blank right after the event happened on April 4 – find out who is responsible. Pompeo came back and said: “It was the Syrian government.” That was Trump’s basis for launching the attacks. Subsequently, it’s come out that US intelligence knew the Syrian government was not responsible. So there is the CIA – they basically supplied the rationale for Trump to launch the attacks that killed 14 people, including nine civilians. That is the only time Trump has been really hailed and given credit in the US mainstream media. This plan now, or the news the CIA Train and Equip Program is being shut down, that is a very good thing. We can expect it to be severely attacked by neoconservatives, who want to prolong and even escalate the conflict much against the interests of the American people, and obviously supremely against the interests of the people of Syria and the region.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , | 3 Comments

Trump ends CIA arms to Salafists in Syria

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | July 19, 2017

Today, two reports emerged within minutes of each other which indicate that under Donald Trump, the United States has fully shifted its policies in Syria away from arming and aiding Salafist/jihadist terrorist fighters and is now allying exclusively with Kurdish.

To a less extent, America is also politically allied with Russia in a limited capacity in south western Syria, something which is more significant due to the shift it represents rather than in terms of size or scope.

Here are the key events:

1. US media reports that Trump ends CIA arming of terrorists

The deeply anti-Trump Washington Post has reported the following,

“President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.

The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.

Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgement of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power”.

The report adds,

“Officials said Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster ahead of a July 7 meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin”.

While the Washington Post calls this a win for Russia, in reality this will not directly effect Russia one way or another. It is however, a win for Syria.

By most reasonable accounts, the conflict in Syria could have ended far earlier if not for the CIA and other US actors arming, funding and training Salafist jihadist fighters in Syria (often referred to as moderate rebels by the western mainstream media).

As even the Washington Post admits, almost in a gloating fashion, arming such jihadists was a flagship policy of the United States under Barack Obama.

This will take a substantial deal of pressure off the Syrian Arab Army and their fight against remaining terrorists in Syria.

Ever since Trump took office, the general trajectory of US meddling in Syria shifted from arming jihadists to arming, funding and working in close military coordination with Kurdish forces.

Today’s revelation simply affirms what was long the apparent on the ground policy of the United States since February of 2017.

It is key to remember that even after this announcement, the US presence in Syria is still illegal according to international law.

2. FSA jihadists withdraw from front-line in Raqqa 

Almost simultaneous to the Washington Post report, Al-Masdar which is generally the most reliable source of on the ground information in Syria, reported the following,

“The Quwwat al-Nukhba sub-group of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which fights within the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has been dismissed from any and all front-line duties in the ongoing Raqqa operation.

About one week ago, word came out that the FSA-linked group was to give up its positions within Raqqa city and retreat to the SDF’s rear areas outside the urban center. However, contradictory reports then came in suggesting that a compromise was reached whereby the Arab faction could retain its positions within the city – this was supported by some photo evidence.

However, according to the latest reports, Quwwat al-Nukhba has officially withdrawn from all of its front-line positions within Raqqa city and handed them over to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

 Information on why the Arab militia has been booted out of the operation remains officially unclear. Nonetheless, some sources suggest that the group showed repeated incompetence during Raqqa battle, advancing quickly within the city but then withdrawing from all gains, abandoning them to ISIS, almost as soon as they were taken.

In any case, the United States – who has overall command of the SDF – represents the party that gave the order for the Arab FSA-linked faction to withdraw (perhaps at the behest of Kurdish recommendations).

This now means that the battle to capture Raqqa from ISIS has become an almost exclusively Kurdish operation”.

Raqqa is now officially a two-horse race between US backed Kurdish forces from the north and the Syrian Arab Army approaching from the west and from the south via Dier Ez-Zor, which is fast becoming a bigger hotspot of remaining ISIS fighters in Syria vis-a-vis Raqqa.

The upside of this for Syria is that the danger of a kind of semi-permanent style US funded Salafist insurgency is reduced to almost nil. This is especially true due to Syria’s strong central government vis-a-vis that of Iraq in the mid-2000s and into recent years.

With the US garrison in southern Syria located in At-Tanf now effectively cut off from the rest of the country via strong lines of control by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, the US would have hit a logistical brick wall if it expended its resources continuing to arm increasingly encircled and materially ineffective jihadist groups like the FSA and its splinter groups and off-shoots.

This move also removes any scant Turkish influence from the race to Raqqa as the few FSA fighters participating in the surge represented the only people who are loyal to a group that is in great part, a Turkish proxy.

Thus, the American decision to force the withdrawal of the minor contingent of the FSA from front-line fighting in Raqqa is close to a de-facto admission that incorporating such jihadists into the final battle with the jihadists of ISIS would be an exercise in futility, one that Kurds themselves also likely oppose.

3. The Russia connection 

At present, there is no overt linkage to these events and Donald Trump’s meeting at the G20 summit with Vladimir Putin. One can however, infer a conclusion that in order to work more effectively with Russia, the United States has dropped the last vestiges of support for jihadists such as the FSA, knowing that it would have reached a similar conclusion based on sheer logistics, even if Russia and the US did not strike a deal to mutually enforce the current ceasefire in south-western Syria along with Jordan.

In this sense, it is wise to remember that hyperbolic linkages of items 1 and 2 with the Trump-Putin meeting are at best circumstantial rather than causal–pragmatic rather than overtly strategic.

This still does not solve the crisis of what Kurdish forces might want as a result of their participation in the race for Raqqa, assuming they partly or wholly win the race.

Furthermore, if Kurds demand further concessions from Damascus including increased autonomy or even independence, many suspect that the United States will strongly back Kurdish demands rather than play the part of a neutral party. This would of course be opposed not only by Syria, Iraq and Iran but most strongly by Turkey which is a traditional US ally, although one which hardly sees eye-to-eye with the US on major Middle Eastern issues ranging from Qatar to Syria.

In this sense, the United States has chosen to infuriate Turkey further, make life slightly less difficult for Syria in terms of battle-field logistics, vaguely placate Russia and most importantly, declare an increased measure of loyalty to Kurds at the expense of the many anti-Kurdish actors in the region, including several technical US allies, namely both Turkey and Iraq.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Oust Trump, War With Russia

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 13.07.2017

Behind the sensational Western media coverage now linking the US president’s son to alleged Russian collusion in the American election, the real euphoria stems from relief that, at last, some «evidence» has been found.

For more than seven months now, the US corporate media have been running unrelenting claims that somehow Donald J Trump colluded with Russian state-sponsored hackers to get elected over his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton.

The media campaign has been dismissed as a witch hunt by Trump. Perhaps more sinisterly, US-Russia relations have also become deeply toxic due to the allegations. Not even a friendly meeting between Trump and Putin at last weekend’s G20 summit in Germany seems able to lift the poisonous cloud over bilateral relations.

However, the never-ending «Russia-gate» story was, to be frank, at risk of boring people to death from the sheer lack of evidence to shore up the conjecture of Trump being a Russian stooge. Despite the fact that three separate government probes have been working on the issue, they have nothing to show for it.

Then this week the «Russia-gate» story-tellers got a lifeline with reports that the president’s eldest son, Donald Jr, held a meeting with a Russian lawyer over a year ago at Trump Tower in New York City. The disclosure came from emails sent by Trump’s son to a mediator who promised «dirt on Clinton» that would damage her election campaign.

Democrats, Republicans, supporters of Clinton and the anti-Trump media are now cock-a-hoop that they have a «smoking gun» to prove the narrative of Trump-Russia collusion. Trump Jr is being accused of betraying his country by consorting with a foreign enemy, Russia.

A Washington Post comment noted: «Donald Trump Jr’s emails are the clearest indication yet that Trump campaign officials and family members were willing to deal with a foreign adversary in their mutual goal of taking down Hillary Clinton, and their revelation is dramatic proof that the Russia investigation is alive with no end in sight.»

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported: «Rancor at White House as Russia Story Refuses to Let the Page Turn». It goes on to comment with a tone of satisfaction: «Every time the president tries to put the furor behind him, more disclosures thrust it back to the fore, and people close to him are anonymously blaming one another.»

What the media outlets decline to say is that the Russia-gate story has not gone away precisely because the media have dutifully amplified leaks and anonymous intelligence claims – more accurately, innuendo – pillorying Trump as a Russian patsy.

The Deep State rulers of the US, comprising the military-intelligence apparatus, never wanted businessman Trump to become president. Unlike Clinton, Trump was insufficiently hawkish towards Russia. Ever since his shock election last November, the Deep State and its media machine have been full throttle to oust the «wrong president». The «Russian collusion» claims are the spearhead of this attack, an attack could qualify as a «soft coup» against the elected president.

With Trump’s son now admitting that he met with a Russian lawyer last summer as the head of his father’s election campaign, the anti-Trump campaign senses a mortal wound and are going full pelt to exploit it.

But the drama has the hallmarks of yet more media-driven sensation that is out of all proportion to the facts. Trump Jr’s lawyer dismissed the latest claims as «much ado about nothing».

The Russian government, which has consistently rejected any claims of interfering in the US election, said that the speculation about Trump and the «Kremlin-connected attorney» is «making a mountain out of a molehill».

As Trump Jr told Fox News this week, he held the meeting simply because he was interested in hearing «opposition research» on Hillary Clinton. As it turned out, no such information was forthcoming and the meeting ended inconclusively after only 20 minutes. That was the end of it. Apparently, Trump Sr wasn’t even told about the brief interview, so insignificant was it at the time.

It seems a fair and plausible observation that Trump Jr was simply doing what any political campaigner would do. Get dirt on opponents.

The US media are thus guilty of «protesting too much» about what is a rather prosaic matter. Apart from the obvious axe they want to grind against President Trump, the other reason for the media hysteria over the latest twist in the Russia-gate affair is that the Deep State and their media machine have, at last, something resembling hard evidence. This is why they are grandstanding. It is from relief that they have found something approximating a story to justify all the months of shrill speculation.

The hypocrisy of the pious media, pundits and politicians over Trump Jr’s betrayal is quickly revealed when one considers that Hillary Clinton’s campaign actively worked with the CIA-backed Kiev regime to dig up dirt on Trump during the election, as reported by Cristina Laila. «Where is the call for Hillary Clinton and her aides to be interviewed by the Senate intelligence panel,» she asks.

According to US media interviews given by Nataliya Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of the Trump brouhaha, she is adamant that she was not acting for the Kremlin. The Kremlin also denies knowing her. She maintains that she not did approach the Trump campaign to provide «dirt» on Clinton, but rather to lobby against US sanctions imposed on her Russian business clients.

The claim that Veselnitskaya was «acting on Russian government information to help Donald Trump» apparently stems solely from the assertion made by the former British tabloid journalist Rob Goldstone, who wrote to Donald Jr to set up the meeting. It was Goldstone who described the meeting with Veselnitskaya as conveying «Russian government information to help your father’s campaign».

In other words that is not «proof» of Russian government involvement. It is simply hearsay from a tabloid hack with self-serving reasons.

Questions that the US media should be asking are: Was Goldstone hamming up his Russian government claims in order to sell Trump a mediation service and a scoop? Also, how did private emails between Goldstone and Trump end up in the possession of the New York Times ? Did Goldstone flog them to the newspaper in order to cash in on the brewing Russia-gate scandal?

As with so much else in the Russia-gate affair, the latest twist seems to be another concoction to turn wild speculation into the semblance of fact. It is as if the US media conceived the headline «Trump colluded with Russia» a long time ago, and have ever since been chasing to find a «story» to fit the headline.

There are too many holes in the whole Russia-gate affair for it to stand up. It is only the servile US media operating on the agenda of the powerful anti-Trump Deep State that make this non-story appear to stand up.

So desperate is the Deep State to oust Trump from office, it is willing to damage US-Russia relations beyond repair, to the point of risking all-out war.

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Read the CIA’s 1951 listicle comparing U.S and Soviet Propaganda

Agency memo found 33 similarities between Voice of America and its USSR counterparts

By Alec Shea | Muckrock | June 30, 2017

In 1951, as the Cold War was intensifying, the CIA decided to see how Voice of America radio broadcasts into Eastern Europe compared with Soviet efforts. In a remarkably candid document, the Agency critically assessed the similarities and differences between U.S. and Soviet propaganda.

Today, VOA claims that it was founded during the Second World War to provide “Unbiased and accurate information.” The CIA officers assessing VOA in 1951, though, saw the service as essentially similar to Soviet propaganda, going so far as saying that most Americans would be surprised by the similarities between the two.

The document proposes that similarities could be the result of opposing countries imitating the propaganda put out by their rivals, and even posits the existence of an “international propagandists culture” that tended to produce similar techniques

The document includes a list of 33 main similarities between Soviet and American propaganda, including the “impression of objectivity,” “avoiding obvious lying on tangible facts,” blurring distinctions within enemy camp,” and “not dignifying opponent’s position by quoting it.”

However, it was in identifying where the two styles differed that the Agency saw the most strategic value.

Some of the differences that the CIA identified included “Soviet Conflict-Mindedness” …

which was directly opposed to “Greater American Fact-Mindedness”

Changes in the National Defense Authorization Act this year ignited fears that VOA could be marketing itself to an American audience. If it does, the American public may get a direct demonstration of exactly what the “international propagandists culture” looks like today.

Read the complete report.

Edited by JPat Brown

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

The ‘Civilianization’ of Movie Scripts: The Pentagon’s Counter-Subversion Program for Hollywood

By Tom Secker | American Herald Tribune | July 11, 2017

While Hollywood is generally supportive of the government – and of the military in particular – the Pentagon faces a problem.  In order to stand out from the crowd and make their screenplays a bit different to the usual schlock, screenwriters like to include subversive elements and aspects, even in films that are broadly in favour of institutions like the Department of Defense and the CIA. Because the Pentagon wants to support films that promote them as a benevolent force in the world, these subversive elements present a problem for them. One solution is civilianization.

In our new book National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood, we document numerous politically-motivated changes made to script by the Pentagon and CIA in exchange for production assistance. We collated this information from a vast range of sources including over 4,000 pages of documents we obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. One recurring theme we found in these changes is the civilianization of characters, action and dialogue that the Pentagon didn’t like.

The Civilianization of Contact

In the 1997 extra-terrestrial epic Contact the National Guard provided vehicles and uniformed extras for a small handful of scenes but in exchange had a considerable influence on the script. In one scene in the White House where the protagonists are deciding what to do with blueprints they have decoded from an alien signal the original script portrays the military as deeply worried that this could be a ‘Trojan Horse’ that would instantly transport an alien army to Earth and take over. Jodie Foster’s character Ellie responded, ‘This is communist paranoia right out of War of the Worlds’.

The Pentagon saw scenes like this as a ‘silly military depiction’ and so they ‘Negotiated civilianization of almost all military parts’. In the revised scene it is the National Security Adviser, not the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who expresses outlandish fears about what this technology might be, and Ellie’s response about paranoia was cut entirely.

In another scene in the pre-civilianized version, the President gives a stirring speech at the UN about the building of this great new technology and this is intercut with a military convoy and Apache helicopters approaching the construction site. The script describes how ‘Encircling the installation is a vast graveyard of discarded aircraft—the detritus of Twentieth Century war-making.’ This is rather obvious symbolism representing how technological efforts are moving from the violence of the 20th century military industry to peaceful 21st century space exploration. In the final version this sequence does not appear, and there is no indication of military involvement in the construction of the wormhole machine. This compromised the creative and philosophical vision behind Contact – of a future where war-making is left behind in favour of learning and discovery.

The Civilianization of Jurassic Park and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

National Security Cinema records numerous other examples of this phenomenon, where instead of outright censoring troublesome scenes the Pentagon distances itself, reducing its presence in these films to a benevolent or benign background entity. For Jurassic Park III the producers approached the Pentagon wanting to film some A-10 gunships for a scene where they battled with flying dinosaurs.

The Pentagon’s chief Hollywood liaison Phil Strub turned down this request because ‘We weren’t about to provide them something that would only generate sympathy for the dinosaurs’. He also requested that they change the identity of the character who discovers the island full of dinosaurs, asking, ‘would you change his character, make him like the president’s science adviser or something like that? Just get him out of the uniform.’ Strub also promoted the idea of the film ending with a ‘nice military rescue’, reducing the military’s role from reckless pioneers and murderers of cute flying dinosaurs, to responsible officials providing emergency/disaster relief.

This technique continues into the most recent films we examined. In 2016’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – a Tina Fey comedy – the military allowed several days filming at Kirtland Air Force Base in exchange for civilianizing one aspect of the script they didn’t like. The version the DOD reviewed, ‘portrayed a US Army transport brake failure, resulting in it hitting a group of Afghani shoppers in Kabul, killing and injuring them. This was changed to an NGO vehicle.’

Independence Day: When Civilianization Fails

Independence Day was not so lucky. When they approached the Pentagon for support making their alien invasion adventure there were numerous aspects of the script that Strub and his colleagues found objectionable. From Will Smith’s Air Force character dating a stripper to the fact that ‘all advances in stopping the aliens are the result of actions by civilians’ which contrasted the ‘anaemic US military response’, the Pentagon was not happy on a number of levels.

They particularly objected to the inclusion of references in the dialogue to Area 51 – the common name for the Groom Lake facility at Edwards Air Force base. Even when the producers civilianized Area 51, making it a non-military facility run by non-military officials, this still didn’t satisfy the Pentagon. As a result, the producers of Independence Day had to use CGI (still a relatively new and very expensive technology at the time) to duplicate the one fighter jet they had to create the scenes of numerous jets in dogfights with alien craft.

However, despite the production being made more difficult and expensive, the Pentagon’s rejection did mean that the producers had more creative freedom. The result was a hugely popular and successful summer blockbuster that is fondly remembered. Had the scenes in Area 51 been removed, or reworked so that they did not involve such an obvious element of UFO folklore, then the film would have been fundamentally different, and less memorable. By contrast, the Pentagon did support the sequel Independence Day: Resurgence, which almost everyone who saw it has already forgotten.

The Consequences of Civilianization

At its most fundamental, the Pentagon’s strategy of civilianization of movies is a means of removing subversive moments from the military realm, or of changing them so they aren’t subversive at all. The image of a US Army transport crashing in downtown Kabul and killing innocent people is an effective, provocative symbol representing the abject futility and stupidity of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Changing this to an NGO vehicle dilutes this subversive element to almost nothing, and it becomes more of a plot point than politically-charged symbolism.

Similarly, by removing the scene from Contact where the construction of the wormhole machine rises above the detritus of 20th century war-making, the Pentagon diluted the subversive philosophy of that film.  While Contact remains an intelligent and in places profound movie its critical light was not allowed to shine on the Pentagon – all so that they could use a couple of National Guard helicopters and jeeps and a handful of real life troops as extras.

This is perhaps the more obvious consequence of military involvement in Hollywood – that films are less radical and challenging than they would otherwise be. However, there is another, more significant and perhaps unintended consequence. In movies subject to this process the characteristics of recklessness, incompetence, deceit and so on are civilian traits, not military ones. The result of this is a semi-consistent worldview across a range of fantasy movies that says that the problems of the world are civilian problems, not resulting from the military’s behaviour.

In reality, as the biggest, richest, most violently powerful organisation in the world, the Pentagon, has greater means to inflict the consequences of human vice on people around the world. While Hollywood is rarely known for being realistic, the ‘soft censorship’ of civilianization exacerbates this problem, with considerable political consequences. Hundreds of millions of cinema-goers are being repeatedly told that the reasons bad things happen are because of ordinary citizens, and not institutionalised military power on a massive scale. This makes it seems like in the real world wars are not the forces of murder and destruction they really are, but are rather the background noise to the evils of human nature. As a result, civilianization of movie scripts helps make wars more likely, more popular and therefore easier to maintain for long periods, and thus more prolonged and destructive. What likely began as a means of ensuring better PR for the military through Hollywood adds up to a powerful political phenomenon.


Tom Secker is a private researcher who runs spyculture.com—the world’s premier online archive about government involvement in the entertainment industry, and home of the popular ClandesTime podcast. He has used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain unique government documents since 2010, which has been reported on by Russia Today, Salon, Techdirt, The Mirror, The Express and other outlets. His new book is National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood.

July 11, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Fake News on Russia in the New York Times, 1917-2017

By Edward S. Herman | Monthly Review | July-August 2017

It has been amusing watching the New York Times (Times) and its fellow mainstream media (MSM) cohort express their dismay over the rise and spread of “fake news.” They take it as an obvious truth that what they provide is straightforward and unbiased fact-based news. They do offer such news, but they also provide a steady flow of their own varied forms of genuinely fake news, often in disseminating false or misleading information supplied them by the CIA, other branches of government, and sites of corporate power. An important form of MSM fake news is that which is presented while suppressing information that calls the preferred news into question. This was the case with “The Lie That Wasn’t Shot Down,” the title of a January 18, 1988 Times editorial referring to a propaganda claim of five years earlier that the editors had swallowed and never looked into any further. The lie–that the Soviets knew that Korean airliner 007, which they shot down on August 31, 1983, was a civilian plane–was eventually uncovered by congressman Lee Hamilton, not by the Times.

MSM fake news is especially likely where a party line is quickly formed on a topic, with deviationism therefore immediately looking naïve, unpatriotic or simply wrong. In a dramatic illustration, in a book chapter entitled “Worthy and Unworthy Victims,” Noam Chomsky and I showed that coverage by Time, Newsweek, CBS News and the New York Times of the 1984 murder of the priest Jerzy Popieluzko in communist Poland, a dramatic and politically useful event for the politicized western MSM, exceeded their coverage of the murders of 100 religious figures killed in Latin America by U.S. client states in the post-World War II years taken together.1 It was cheap and free of any negative feedback to focus heavily on the “worthy” victim, whereas looking closely at the deaths of the 100 would have required an expensive and sometimes dangerous research effort and would have upset the State Department. But it was a form of fake news to discriminate so heavily with news (and indignation) on a politically useful victim while ignoring large numbers whose murder the political establishments wanted downplayed or completely suppressed.

The Fake News Tradition on Russia in the New York Times

Fake news on Russia is a Times tradition that can be traced back at least as far as the 1917 revolution. In a classic study of the paper’s coverage of the Russian revolution from February 1917 to March 1920, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz found that “From the point of view of professional journalism the reporting of the Russian Revolution is nothing short of a disaster. On the essential questions the net effect was almost always misleading, and misleading news is worse than none at all….They can fairly be charged with boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled, and on many occasions with a downright lack of common sense.”2 Lippmann and Merz found that strong editorial bias clearly fed into news reporting. The editors very much wanted the communists to lose, and serving this end caused the paper to report atrocities that didn’t happen and the imminent fall of the Bolshevik regime on a regular basis (at least 91 times). There was a heavy and uncritical acceptance of official handouts and reliance on statements from unidentified “high authority.” This was standard Times practice.

This fake news performance of 1917-1920 was repeated often in the years that followed. The Soviet Union was an enemy target up to World War II, and Times coverage was consistently hostile. With the end of World War II and the Soviet Union at that point a major military power, and soon a rival nuclear power, the Cold War was on. Anti-communism became a major U.S. religion, and the Soviet Union was quickly found to be trying to conquer the world and needing containment. With this ideology in place and U.S. plans for its own real global expansion of power well established,3 the communist threat would now help sustain the steady growth of the military-industrial complex and repeated interventions to deal with purported Soviet aggressions.

An Early Great Crime: Guatemala

One of the most flagrant cases in which the Russian threat was used to justify U.S.-organized violence was the overthrow of the social democratic government of Guatemala in 1954 by a small proxy army invading from U.S. ally Somoza’s Nicaragua. This action was provoked by government reforms that upset U.S. officials, including a 1947 law permitting the formation of labor unions, and government plans to buy back (at tax rate valuations) and distribute to landless peasants some of the unused land owned by United Fruit Company and other large landowners. The U.S., which had been perfectly content with the earlier 14-year- long dictatorship of Jose Ubico, could not tolerate this democratic challenge and the elected government, led by Jacobo Arbenz, was soon charged with assorted villainies, with the main fake news base of an alleged Red capture of the Guatemalan government.4

In the pre-invasion propaganda campaign the unified MSM leveled a stream of false charges of extreme repression, threats to its neighbors, and the communist takeover. The Times featured these alleged abuses and threats repeatedly from 1950 onward (my favorite, Sidney Gruson’s “How Communists Won Control of Guatemala,” March 1, 1953). Arbenz and his predecessor, Juan Jose Arevalo, had carefully avoided establishing any embassies with Soviet bloc countries, fearing U.S. reactions. But it was to no avail. Following the removal of Arbenz and installation of a right-wing dictatorship, court historian Ronald Schneider, after studying 50,000 documents seized from communist sources in Guatemala, found that not only did the communists never control the country, but that the Soviet Union “made no significant or even material investment in the Arbenz regime” and was too preoccupied with internal problems to concern itself with Central America.5

The coup government quickly attacked and decimated the organized groups that had formed in the democratic era, like peasant, worker and teacher organizations. Arbenz had won 65 percent of the votes in a free election, but the “liberator” Castillo Armas quickly won a “plebiscite” with 99.6 percent of the vote. Although this is a result familiar in totalitarian regimes, the MSM had lost interest in Guatemala and barely mentioned this electoral outcome. The Times had claimed back in 1950 that U.S. Guatemala policy “is not trying to block social and economic progress but is interested in seeing that Guatemala becomes a liberal democracy.”6 But in the aftermath the editors failed to note that the result of U.S. policy was precisely to “block social and economic progress,” and via the installation of a regime of terror.

In 2011, more than half a century after 1954, Elizabeh Malkin reported in the Times that Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom had apologized for that ”great crime [the violent overthrow of the Arbenz government in 1954] …an act of aggression to a government starting its democratic spring.” (“An apology for a Guatemalan Coup, 57 Years Later,” October 20, 2011). Malkin mentions that, according to president Colom, the Arbenz family is “seeking an apology from the United States for its role” in the “great Crime.” There has never been any apology or even acknowledgement of its role in the Great Crime by the editors of the New York Times.

Another Great Crime: Vietnam

There were many fake news reports in the Times and other mainstream publications during the Vietnam war. The claim that the Times was anti-Vietnam-war is misleading and essentially false. In Without Fear or Favor, former Times reporter Harrison Salisbury acknowledged that in 1962, when U.S. intervention escalated, the Times was “deeply and consistently” supportive of the war policy.7 He contends that the paper became steadily more oppositional from 1965, culminating in the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. But Salisbury fails to recognize that from 1954 to the present the paper never abandoned the Cold War framework and language of apologetics, according to which the U.S. was resisting somebody else’s aggression and protecting “South Vietnam.” The paper never applied the word aggression to this country, but used it freely in referring to North Vietnamese actions and those of the National Liberation Front in the southern half of Vietnam.

The various halts in the U.S. bombing war in 1965 and later in the alleged interest of “giving peace a chance” were also fake news, as the Johnson administration used the halts to quiet antiwar protests, while making it clear to the Vietnamese that U.S. officials demanded full surrender. The Times and its colleagues swallowed this bait without a murmur of dissent.8

Furthermore, although from 1965 onward the Times was willing to publish more information that put the war in a less favorable light, it never broke from its heavy dependence on official sources or its reluctance to check out official lies or explore the damage being wrought on Vietnam and its civilian population by the U.S. war machine. In contrast with its eager pursuit of Cambodian refugees from the Khmer Rouge after April 1975, the paper rarely sought out testimony from the millions of Vietnamese refugees fleeing U.S. bombing and chemical warfare. In its opinion columns as well, the new openness was limited to commentators who accepted the premises of the war and would confine their criticisms to its tactical problems and costs–;to us. From beginning to end those who criticized the war as aggression and immoral at its root were excluded from the debate by the Times.9

The 1981 Papal Assassination Attempt. The “Missile Gap,” and “Humanitarian Intervention” in Yugoslavia

Papal Assassination Attempt. A major contribution to Cold War propaganda was provided by fake news on the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in Rome in May 1981. This was a time when the Reagan administration was trying hard to demonize the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” The shooting of the Pope by the Turkish fascist Ali Agca was quickly tied to Moscow, helped by Agca’s confession, after 17 months imprisonment, interrogations, threats, inducements, and access to the media, that the Bulgarians and Soviet KGB were behind it. There was never any credible evidence of this connection, the claims were implausible, and the corruption in the process was remarkable. (See Manufacturing Consent, chapter 4 and Appendix 2). And Agca also periodically claimed to be Jesus Christ. The case against the Bulgarians (and implicitly the KGB) was lost even in Italy’s extremely biased and politicized judicial framework. But the Times bought it, and gave it long, intensive and completely uncritical attention, as did most of the U.S. media.

In 1991, in Senate hearings on the qualifications of Robert Gates to head the CIA, former CIA officer Melvin Goodman testified that the CIA knew [from the start that Agca’s confessions were false because they had “very good penetration” of the Bulgarian secret services. The Times omitted this statement by Goodman in reporting on his testimony. In the same year. with Bulgaria now a member of the Free World, conservative analyst Allen Weinstein obtained permission to examine Bulgarian secret service files on the papal assassination attempt. His mission was widely reported when he went, including in the Times, but when he returned without having found anything implicating Bulgaria or the KGB, a number of papers, including the Times, found this not newsworthy.

Missile Gap. There was a great deal of fake news in the “missile gap” and other gap eras, from roughly 1975 to 1986, with Times reporters passing along official and often false news in a regular stream. An important case occurred in the mid-1970s, at a time when the U.S. war-party was trying to escalate the Cold War and arms race. A 1975 report of CIA professionals found that the Soviets were aiming only for nuclear parity. This was unsatisfactory, so CIA head George H.W. Bush appointed a new team of hardliners, who soon found that the Soviets were achieving nuclear superiority and getting ready to fight a nuclear war. This Team B report was taken at face value in a Times front page article of December 26, 1976 by David Binder, who failed to mention its political bias or purpose and made no attempt by tapping experts with different views to get at the truth. The CIA admitted in 1983 that the Team B estimates were fabrications. But throughout this period, 1975-1986, the Times supported the case for militarization by disseminating lots of fake news. Much of this false information was convincingly refuted by Tom Gervasi in his classic The Myth of Soviet Military Supremacy (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), a book never reviewed in the paper despite the paper’s frequent attention to its subject matter.

Yugoslavia and “Humanitarian Intervention.” The 1990s wars of dismantlement of Yugoslavia succeeded in removing an independent government from power and replacing it with a broken Serbian remnant and poor and unstable failed states in Bosnia and Kosovo. It did provide unwarranted support for the new concept of “humanitarian intervention,” which rested on a mass of fake news. The demonized Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was not an ultra-nationalist seeking a “Greater Serbia,” but rather a non-aligned leader on the Western hit list who tried to help Serb minorities in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo remain in Yugoslavia as the U.S. and EU supported a legally questionable exodus by several constituent Yugoslav Republics. He supported each of the proposed settlements of these conflicts, sabotaged by Bosnian and U.S. officials who wanted better terms or the outright military defeat of Serbia, the latter of which they achieved. Milosevic had nothing to do with the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which involved Bosnian Serbs taking revenge on Bosnian Muslim soldiers who had been ravaging nearby Bosnian Serb villages from their base in Srebrenica under NATO protection. The several thousand Serb civilian deaths were essentially unreported in the MSM, while the numbers of Srebrenica executed victims were correspondingly inflated. The Times’s reporting on these events was fake news on a systematic basis.10

The Putin Era: A Golden Age of Fake News

The U.S. establishment was shocked and thrilled with the 1989-1991 fall of the Soviet Union, and its members were happy with the policies carried out under President Boris Yeltsin, a virtual U.S. client, under whose rule ordinary Russians suffered a calamity but a small set of oligarchs was able to loot the broken state. Yeltsin’s election victory in 1996, greatly assisted by U.S. consultants, advice and money, and otherwise seriously corrupt, was, for the editors of the Times, “A Victory for Russian Democracy” (NYT, ed, July 4, 1996). They were not bothered by either the electoral corruption, the creation of a grand-larceny-based economic oligarchy, or, shortly thereafter, the new rules centralizing power in the office of president.11

Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, by gradually abandoning the Yeltsin era subservience was thereby perceived as a steadily increasing menace. His re-election in 2012, although surely less corrupt than Yeltsin’s in 1996, was treated harshly in the media. The lead Times article on May 5, 2012 featured “a slap in the face” from OSCE observers, claims of no real competition, and “thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in Moscow square to chant ‘Russia without Putin’” (Ellen Barry and Michael Schwartz, “After Election, Putin Faces Challenges to Legitimacy”). There had been no “challenges to legitimacy” reported in the Times after Yeltsin’s corrupt victory in 1996.

The process of Putin demonization escalated with the Ukraine crisis of 2014 and its sequel of Kiev warfare against Eastern Ukraine, Russian support of the East Ukraine resistance, and the Crimean referendum and absorption of Crimea by Russia. This was all declared “aggression” by the U.S. and its allies and clients, sanctions were imposed on Russia, and a major U.S.-NATO military buildup was initiated on Russia’s borders. Tensions mounted further with the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over southeastern Ukraine, effectively, but almost surely falsely, blamed on the “pro-Russian” rebels and Russia itself.12

A further cause of demonization and anti-Russian hostility resulted from the escalated Russian intervention in Syria from 2015 in support of Bashar al-Assad and against ISIS and al-Nusra, an offshoot of al-Qaeda. The U.S. and its NATO and Middle East allies had been committing aggression against Syria, in de facto alliance with ISIS and al-Nusra, for several years. Russian intervention turned the tide, the U.S. (Saudi, etc.) goal of removing Assad was upset and the tacit U.S. allies ISIS and al-Nusra were also weakened. Certainly demonic behavior by Putin!

The Times has treated these further developments with unstinting apologetics–for the February 2014 coup in Kiev, which it never calls a coup, with the U.S. role in the overthrow of the elected government of Victor Yanukovych suppressed, and with anger and horror at the Crimea referendum and Russian absorption, which it never allows to be a defensive response to the Kiev coup. Its call for punishment of the casualty-free Russian “aggression” in Crimea is in marked contrast with its apologetics for the million-plus-casualty–rich U.S. aggression “of choice” (not defensive) in Iraq from March 2003 on. The editors and liberal columnist Paul Krugman angrily cite Putin’s lack of respect for international law,13 with their internalized double standard exempting their own country from criticism for its repeated violations of that law.

In the Times’s reporting and opinion columns Russia is regularly assailed as expansionist and threatening its neighbors, but virtually no mention is made of NATO’s expansion up to the Russian borders and first-strike-threat placement of anti-missile weapons in Eastern Europe, the latter earlier claimed to be in response to a missile threat from Iran! Analyses by political scientist John Mearsheimer and Russia authority Stephen F. Cohen that featured this NATO advance could not make it into the opinion pages of the Times.14 On the other hand, a member of the Russian Pussy Riot band, Maria Alyokhina, was given op-ed space to denounce Putin and Russia,15 and the punk-rock group was granted a meeting with the Times editorial board. Between January 1 and March 31, 2014 the paper had 23 articles featuring the Pussy Riot group and its alleged significance as a symbol of Russian limits on free speech. Pussy Riot had disrupted a church service in Moscow and only stopped upon police intervention, which was at the request of the church authorities. A two year prison sentence followed. In contrast, in February 2014, 84 year old Sister Megan Rice was sentenced to four years in prison in the U.S. for having entered a nuclear weapons site in July 2012 and carried out a symbolic protest action. The Times gave this news a tiny mention in its National Briefing section under the title “Tennessee Nun is Sentenced for Peace Protest.” No op-ed columns or meeting with the Times board for Rice. There are worthy and unworthy protesters as well as victims.

As regards Syria, with Russian help the Assad forces were able to dislodge the rebels from Aleppo, to the dismay of Washington and the MSM. It has been enlightening to see how much concern has been expressed over casualties to civilians in Aleppo, with pictures of forsaken children and many stories of civilian distress. The Times focused heavily on those civilians and children, with great indignation at Putin-Assad inhumanity,16 in sharp contrast with their virtual silence on civilian casualties in Falluja in 2004 and beyond, and recently in rebel-held areas of Syria, and in Mosul (Iraq), under U.S. and allied attack.17 The differential treatment of worthy and unworthy victims has been in full sway in dealing with Syria, displayed again with the chemical weapons casualties and Trump bombing response in April 2017 (discussed below).

A further and important phase of intensifying Russophobia may be dated from the October 2016 presidential debates, where Hillary Clinton declared that Mr. Trump would be a Putin “puppet” as president, and her campaign stressed this threat. This emphasis increased after the election, with the help of the media and intelligence services, as the Clinton camp sought to explain the election loss, maintain party control, and possibly get the election result overturned in the courts or electoral college by blaming the Trump victory on Russia.

The Putin connection was given great impetus by the January 6, 2017 release of a report of the Office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), on Background of Assessing Russian Activities and Intention in Recent US Elections This short document spends more than half of its space describing the Russian-sponsored RT-TV network, which it treats as an illegitimate propaganda source given its sponsorship and sometimes critical reports on U.S. policy and institutions! RT is allegedly part of Russia’s “influence campaign,” and the DNI says that “We assess the influence campaign aspired to help President-elect Trump’s chances of victory when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to the President-elect.” There is no semblance of proof that there was a planned “campaign” rather than an ongoing expression of opinion and news judgments. All the logic and proofs of a Russian “influence campaign” could be applied with at least equal force to U.S. media and Radio Free Europe’s treatment of any Russian election, and of course the U.S. intervention in the 1996 Russian election was overt, direct and went far beyond any “influence campaign.”

As regards the DNI’s proof of a more direct Russian intervention in the U.S. election, the authors concede the absence of “full supporting evidence,” but they provide no supporting evidence—only assertions, assessments, assumptions and guesses. It states that “We assess that … Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2015” designed to defeat Mrs. Clinton, and “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process,” but it provides no evidence whatsoever for any such order. It also provides no evidence that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the e-mails of Clinton and former Clinton campaign manager Podesta, or that it gave hacked information to WikiLeaks. Julian Assange and former British diplomat Craig Murray have repeatedly claimed that these sources were leaked by local insiders, not hacked by anybody. And the veteran intelligence agency experts William Binney and Ray McGovern also contend that the WikiLeaks evidence was surely leaked, not hacked.18 It is also notable that among the three intelligence agencies who signed the DNI document, only “moderate confidence” in its findings was expressed by the National Security Agency (NSA), the agency that would most clearly be in possession of proof of Russian hacking and transmission to WikiLeaks as well as any “orders” from Putin.

But the Times has taken the Russian hacking story as established fact, despite the absence of hard evidence (as with the Reds ruling Guatemala, the “missile gaps,” etc.). Times reporter David Sanger refers to the report’s “damning and surprisingly detailed account of Russia’s efforts to undermine the American electoral system,” but he then acknowledges that the published report “contains no information about how the agencies had … come to their conclusions.”19 The report itself includes the amazing statement that “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” This is a denial of the credibility of its own purported evidence (i.e., “assessments”). Furthermore, if the report was based on “intercepts of conversations” as well as hacked computer data, as Sanger and the DNI claim, why has the DNI failed to quote a single conversation showing Putin’s alleged orders and plans to destabilize the West?

The Times never cites or gives editorial space to William Binney, Ray McGovern or Craig Murray, who are dissident authorities on hacking technology, methodology and the specifics of the DNC hacks. But op-ed space was given to Louise Mensch’s “What to ask about Russian hacking” (NYT, March 17, 2017). Mensch is a notorious conspiracy theorist with no technical background in this area and who is described by Nathan Robinson and Alex Nichols as best-known for “spending most of her time on Twitter issuing frenzied denunciations of imagined armies of online ‘Putinbots’” and is “one of the least credible people on the internet.”20 But she is published in the Times because, in contrast with the well-informed and credible William Binney and Craig Murray, she follows the party line, taking Russian hacking of the DNC as a premise.

The CIA’s brazen intervention in the election process in 2016 and 2017 broke new ground in secret service politicization. Former CIA head Michael Morell had an August 5, 2016 op-ed in the Times entitled “I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton”; and former CIA boss Michael Hayden had an op-ed in the Washington Post just days before the election, entitled “Former CIA Chief:- Trump is Russia’s Useful Fool” (November 3, 2016). Morell had another op-ed in the Times on January 6, now openly assailing the new president (“Trump’s Dangerous Anti-CIA Crusade”). These attacks were unrelievedly insulting to Trump and laudatory to Clinton, even making Trump a traitor; they also make it clear that Clinton’s more pugnacious approach to Syria and Russia is much preferred to Trump’s leanings toward negotiation and cooperation with Russia.

This was also true of the further scandal with former Trump Defense Intelligence nominee Michael Flynn’s call from the Russian Ambassador, which possibly included exchanges about future Trump administration policy actions. This was quickly grasped by the outgoing Obama officials, security personnel and MSM, with the FBI interrogating Flynn and with widespread expressions of horror at Flynn’s action, allegedly possibly setting him up for blackmail. But such pre-inauguration meetings with Russian diplomats have been a “common practice” according to Jack Matlock, the U.S. ambassador to Russia under Reagan and Bush, and Matlock had personally arranged such a meeting for Jimmy Carter.21 Obama’s own Russia adviser, Michael McFaul, admitted visiting Moscow for talks with officials in 2008 even before the election. Daniel Lazare makes a good case that not only are the illegality and blackmail threat implausible, but that the FBI’s interrogation of Flynn also reeks of entrapment. And he asks what is wrong with trying to reduce tensions with Russia? “Yet anti-Trump liberals are trying to convince the public that it’s all ‘worse than Watergate’.”22

So the political point of the Assessment seems to have been, at minimum, to tie the Trump administration’s hands in its dealings with Russia. Some non-MSM analysts have argued that we may have been witnessing an incipient spy or palace coup, that fell short but still had the desired effect of weakening the new administration.23 The Times has not offered a word of criticism of this politicization and intervention in the election process by the intelligence agencies, and in fact the editors have been working with them and the Democratic Party as a loosely-knit team in a distinctly un- and anti-democratic program designed to reverse the results of the 2016 election, while using an alleged foreign electoral intervention as their excuse.

The Times and MSM in general have also barely mentioned the awkward fact that the allegedly Russian-hacked disclosures of the DNC and Clinton and Podesta e-mails described uncontested facts about real electoral manipulations on behalf of the Clinton campaign that the public had a right to know and that might well have affected election results. The focus on the evidence-free claims of a Russian hacking intrusion helped divert attention from the real electoral abuses disclosed by the WikiLeaks material. So here again, official and MSM fake news helped bury real news!

Another arrow in the campaign quiver labeling Trump a knowing or “useful fool” instrument of Putin was a private intelligence “dossier” written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent working for Orbis Business Intelligence, a private firm hired by the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump. Steele’s first report, delivered in June 2016, made numerous serious accusations against Trump, most notably that Trump had been caught in a sexual escapade in Moscow, that his political advance had been supported by the Kremlin for at least five years, under the direction of Putin, and with the further aims of sowing discord within the U.S. and disrupting the Western alliance. This document was based on alleged conversations by Steele with distant (Russian) officials; that is, strictly hearsay evidence, whose assertions, where verifiable, are sometimes erroneous.24 But it said just what the Democrats, MSM and CIA wanted said, so intelligence officials declared the author “credible” and the media lapped this up, with the Times covering over its own cooperation in this ugly denigration effort by calling the report “unverified” but nevertheless reporting its claims.25

The Steele dossier also became a central part of the investigation and hearings on “Russia-gate” held by the House Intelligence Committee starting in March 2017, led by Democratic Representative Adam Schiff. While basing his opening statement on the hearsay-laden dossier, Schiff expressed no interest in establishing who funded the Steele effort (he produced 17 individual reports), the identity and exact status of the Russian officials who were the hearsay sources, and how much they were paid. Apparently talking to Russians with a design of influencing a U.S. presidential election is perfectly acceptable if the candidate supported by this Russian intrusion is anti-Russian!

The Times has played a major role in this Russophobia-enhancement process, reminiscent of its 1917-1920 performance in which, as noted back in 1920 “boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled” characterized the news-making process. While quoting the CIA’s admission that they were showing no hard evidence, but were relying on “circumstantial evidence” and “capabilities,” the Times was happy to spell these capabilities out at great length and imply that they proved something.26 Editorials and news articles have worked uniformly on the supposition that Russian hacking was proved, which it was not, and that the Russians had given these data to WikiLeaks, also unproven and strenuously denied by Assange and Murray. So these reiterated claims are arguably first class “fake news” swallowed as palatable facts.

The Times has run neck-and-neck with the Washington Post in stirring up fears of the Russian information war and improper involvement with Trump. The Times now easily conflates fake news with any criticism of established institutions, as in Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy’s “Europe Combats a New Foe of Political Stability: Fake News,” February 20, 2017.27 But what is more extraordinary is the uniformity with which the paper’s regular columnists accept as a given the CIA’s Assessment of the Russian hacking and transmission to WikiLeaks, the possibility or likelihood that Trump is a Putin puppet, and the urgent need of a congressional and “non-partisan” investigation of these claims. This swallowing of a new war-party line has extended widely in the liberal media (e.g., Bill Moyers, Robert Reich, Ryan Lizza, Joan Walsh, Rachel Maddow, Katha Pollitt, Joshua Holland, the AlterNet web site, etc.).

Both the Times and Washington Post have given tacit support to the idea that this “fake news” threat needs to be curbed, possibly by some form of voluntary media-organized censorship or government intervention that would at least expose the fakery.

The Times has treated uncritically the Schiff hearings on dealing with Russian propaganda, and its opinion column by Louise Mensch strongly supports government hearings to expose Russian propaganda. Mensch names 26 individuals who should be interrogated about their contacts with Russians, and she supplies questions they should be asked.

The most remarkable media episode in this anti-influence-campaign campaign was the Washington Post‘s piece by Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” (November 24, 2016). The article features a report by an anonymous author or authors, PropOrNot, that claims to have found 200 web sites that wittingly or unwittingly, were “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” While smearing these web sites, the “experts” refused to identify themselves allegedly out of fear of being “targeted by legions of skilled hackers.” As Matt Taibbi says, “You want to blacklist hundreds of people, but you won’t put your name to your claims? Take a hike.”28 But the Post welcomed and featured this McCarthyite effort, which might well be a product of Pentagon or CIA information warfare. (And these entities are themselves well funded and heavily into the propaganda business.)

On December 23, 2016 President Obama signed the Portman-Murphy “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act,” which will supposedly allow this country to more effectively combat foreign (Russian, Chinese) propaganda and disinformation. It will encourage more government counter-propaganda efforts (which will, by patriotic definition, not be U.S. propaganda) and provide funding to non-government entities that will help in this enterprise. It is clearly a follow-on to the claims of Russian hacking and propaganda, and shares the spirit of the listing of 200 knowing or “useful fools” of Moscow featured in the Washington Post. Perhaps PropOrNot will qualify for a subsidy and be able to enlarge its list of 200. Liberals have been quiet on this new threat to freedom of speech, undoubtedly influenced by their fears of Russian-based fake news and propaganda. But they may wake up, even if belatedly, when Trump or one of his successors puts it to work on their own notions of fake news and propaganda.

The success of the war party’s campaign to contain or overthrow any tendencies of Trump to ease tensions with Russia was dramatically clear in the Trump administration’s speedy bombing response to the April 4, 2017 Syrian chemical weapons deaths. The Times and other MSM editors and journalists greeted this aggressive move with almost uniform enthusiasm,29 and once again did not require evidence of Assad’s guilt beyond their government’s say-so. The action was damaging to Assad and Russia, but served the rebels well. But the MSM never ask cui bono? in cases like this. In 2003 a similar charge against Assad, which brought the U.S. to the brink of a full-scale bombing war in Syria, turned out to be a false flag operation, and some potent authorities believe the current case is equally problematic.30 But Trump moved quickly (and unlawfully) and any further rapproachement between this country and Russia was set back. The CIA, Pentagon, liberal-Democrats and rest of the war party had won an important skirmish in the struggle for and against permanent war.

  1. Manufacturing Consent (New York: Pantheon, 1988, 2002, 2008), chap. 2.
  2. Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz, A Test of the News (New York: New Republic, 1920).
  3. On the Grand Area framework, see Noam Chomsky, “Lecture one, The New Framework of Order,” On Power And Ideology: The Managua Lectures (Boston, South End Press, 1987).
  4. Edward Herman, “Returning Guatemala to the Fold,” in Gary Rawnsley, ed., Cold War Propaganda in the 1950s (London, Macmillan, 1999).
  5. Ronald Schneider, Communism in Guatemala, 1944-1954 (New York: Praeger, 1959), 41, 196-7, 294.
  6. “The Guatemala Incident,” New York Times (ed., April 8, 1950).
  7. Harrison Salisbury, Without Fear or Favor (New York: Times Books, 1980), 486.
  8. Richard DuBoff and Edward Herman, America’s Vietnam Policy: The Strategy of Deception (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1966).
  9. See Manufacturing Consent, chap. 6 (Vietnam).
  10. Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,” Monthly Review, October 2007; Herman and Peterson, “Marlise Simons on the Yugoslavia Tribunal: A Study in Total Propaganda Service,” ZNet, April 16, 2005.
  11. Stephen F. Cohen, Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000).
  12. Robert Parry, “Troubling Gaps in the New MH-17 Report,” Consortiumnews.com. September 28, 2016.
  13. Paul Krugman says “Mr. Putin is someone who doesn’t worry about little things like international law,” in “The Siberian Candidate,” New York Times, July 22, 2016. The fake news implication is that U.S. leaders do worry about it.
  14. A version of Mearsheimer’s article “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,” published in Foreign Affairs, Sept. 10, 2014, was offered to the Times but not accepted. Stephen Cohen’s 2012 article “The Demonization of Putin” was also rejected by the paper.
  15. “Sochi Under Siege,” New York Times, February 21, 2014.
  16. Michael Kimmelman, “Aleppo’s F aces Beckon to Us, To Little Avail,” New York Times,, Dec. 15, 2016. Above this front page article are four photos of dead or injured children, the most prominent one in Syria. The accompanying editorial: “Aleppo’s Destroyers: Assad, Putin, Iran,” December. 15, 2016, omits some key actors and killers.
  17. Rick Sterling, “How US Propaganda Plays in Syrian War,” Consortiumnews.com, September. 23, 2016.
  18. William Binney and Ray McGovern, “The Dubious Case on Russian ‘Hacking’,” Consortiumnews.com January 6, 2017.
  19. David Sanger, “Putin Ordered ‘Influence Campaign’ Aimed at U.S. Election, Report Says,” NYT, January 6, 4017.
  20. Nathan Robinson and Alex Nichols, “What Constitutes Reasonable Mainstream Opinion,” Current Affairs, March 22, 2017.
  21. “Contacts With Russian Embassy,” JackAMatlock.com, March 4, 2017.
  22. Daniel Lazare, “Democrats, Liberals, Catch McCarthyistic Fever,” Consortiumnew.com, February 17, 2917.
  23. Robert Parry, “A Spy Coup in America?,” Consortiumnews,com, Dec. 18, 2016; Andre Damon, “Democratic Party Floats Proposal for a Palace Coup,” Information Clearing House, March 23, 2017.
  24. Robert Parry, “The Sleazy Origins of Russia-gate,” Consortiumnews.com, March 29, 2017.
  25. Scott Shane et al, “How a Sensational, Unverified Dossier Became a Crisis for Donald Trump,” New York Times, January 11, 2017.
  26. Matt Fegenheimer and Scott Shane,” “Bipartisan Voices Back U.S. Agencies On Russia Hacking,” NYT, January 6, 2017; Michael Shear and David Sanger, “Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds,“ NYT January 7, 2017; Andrew Kramer, “How the Kremlin Recruited an Army of Specialists to Wage Its Cyberwar,” NYT, Dec. 30, 2016.
  27. Robert Parry, “NYT’s Fake News about Fake News,”Consortium news.com, February 22, 2017.
  28. Matt Taibbi, “The ‘Washington Post’ ‘Blacklist’ Story Is Shameful and Disgusting,” Rolling Stone.com, November 28, 2016.
  29. Adam Johnson, “Out of 47 Media Editorials on Trump’s Syria Strikes, Only One Opposed,” Fair, April 11, 2017.
  30. Scott Ritter, “Wag the Dog—How Al Qaeda Played Donald Trump And The American Media: Responsibility for the chemical event in Khan Sheikhoun is still very much in question,” Huffingtonpost.com, April 9, 2017; James Carden, ”The Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria; Is there a place for skepticism?,” Nation, April 11, 2017.

Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.

July 8, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ten Problems with the Anti-Russia Obsession

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | July 6, 2017

Western media and Democratic Party politicians have made a major campaign accusing Russia of “meddling” in the U.S. election, colluding with and helping Trump win the Presidency. The charges began as “allegations” but now are routinely asserted as facts. The Washington Post recently ran a long article claiming all the above plus saying the operation was directed by Russian President Putin himself and implying not enough has been done to “punish” Russia. The July-August 2017 edition of Mother Jones magazine features an article headlined “The Russian Connection: Collusion? Maybe. Active Enablers? Definitely. Trump Knew the Truth, but he Remained on the Side of the Enemy.”

Is this campaign based on facts or political opportunism? Does it help or hurt the progressive cause of peace with justice? Following are major problems with the “anti-Russia” theme, starting with the lack of clear evidence.

1) Evidence from Crowdstrike is dubious. 

Accusations that Russia stole and released the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails are based on the findings of the private company Crowdstrike. The DNC did not allow the FBI to scan the computers but relied on a hired private company which claims to have found telltale Russian alphabet characters (cyrrilic) in the computer memory. However, Crowdstrike is known to be political biased, connected to the Clintons and to make false accusations such as this one documented by Voice of America. Recently the Wikileaks “Vault7” findings reveal that the CIA has developed software which purposely leaves foreign language characters in memory, casting further doubt on the Crowdstrike evidence.

2) The Steele Dossier looks fictitious.

The accusations of Trump-Russia collusion, Putin direction etc are significantly based on the so-called “Steele Dossier”. This is the 35 page compilation of “intelligence reports” produced by a former MI6 officer, Robert Steele. The research and reports by Steele were contracted by anti-Trump Republicans in the primary race, then by the Clinton campaign in the presidential race. There is no supporting evidence or verification of the claims; the reports are essentially that a Kremlin source says such-and-such. It has since been revealed that Steele was not in direct contact but collected the information via Russians in the UK who in turn received it from Kremlin insiders. The reports were viewed skeptically by media, politicians and the intelligence community through the summer and fall of 2016. But then, just prior to the election, the dossier was leaked to the public with sensational stories of “golden showers” by prostitutes urinating at Trump’s request to “defile” the bed where the Obamas previously slept. Is the Steele dossier accurate or was it a PR dirty trick designed to damage Trump? The latter seems at least if not more likely. This Newsweek article, Thirteen things that don’t add up in the Russia-Trump intelligence dossier, lists some of the reasons to be skeptical.

3) The “assessment” from Intel Agencies gives no evidence and seems politically biased. 

On 6 January 2017 the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released a 14 page document titled “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”. The report says Russian President Putin ordered a campaign including cyber activity along with “overt efforts” to influence the election through official media (RT) and social media. Half of the report (7 pages) is devoted to describing the effectiveness and growth of Russian sponsored media known as “RT”. The report gives no evidence, acknowledging that is “does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods”.

Should this report be accepted uncritically? Not if you consider past performance. The CIA has a long history of deception and disinformation. “Intelligence” is sometimes directed to support political goals. One clear example is the false claims about Iraq that led to the U.S. invasion in 2003. In addition, the intelligence leadership is known to lie under oath. For example, DNI Director James Clapper lied in his testimony before Congress regarding the extent of monitoring and recording private communications of American citizens. The truth was later revealed by Edward Snowden. In short, there is no good reason to uncritically accept the statements and assertions of the U.S. intelligence community. There is every reason to be skeptical and require credible and verifiable evidence.

This is compounded by the conflict between Trump and the intelligence agencies where they may be seeking retribution against him. Even Democratic Senator Schumer warned Trump about the dangers of bucking the CIA and other agencies: “They have seven ways to Sunday to get back at you.” What better way than shining a bright light on the Steele dossier and giving credence to the third hand accusations? It has recently been acknowledged by the NY Times that the assessment was made by four not seventeen intelligence agencies. DNI Director Clapper has admitted the assessment was by a hand picked group of analysts. Finally, it is significant that the NSA would only grant “moderate confidence” to the accusation that “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances”. By their own definition on page 13, moderate confidence means that the information is “plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.”

4) The counter-evidence seems stronger and more factual. 

Veteran intelligence professionals, including a former technical director of the NSA, say the DNC email release was caused by a leak not a “hack”. The distinction is important: a hack is done over the internet; a leak is done transferring files onto a memory stick with little or no record. VIPS believes the emails were taken by an insider who transferred the files onto a thumb drive. If the files had been transferred over the internet, the National Security Agency (NSA) would have a record of that since virtually every packet is stored. In addition, the publisher of the DNC and Podesta emails, Wikileaks, says they did not receive the emails from Russia. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has offered a reward for the discovery of the murderer of Seth Rich, the young DNC Director of Voter Expansion who was mysteriously murdered on July 22. When asked if Seth Rich was the source of the DNC emails, he does not reply directly but it is implied. In addition, the former UK Ambassador Craig Murray has suggested that he was involved in a later (Podesta) transfer of the files from Washington DC to Wikileaks. Meanwhile, there appears to be an effort to discredit and denigrate research or investigation into the Seth Rich theory. If DNC insiders such as Seth Rich transferred the emails to Wikileaks, the anti-Russia campaign collapses.

Since Trump’s November victory, there have been accusations of “Russian interference” in European elections. But in each case, subsequent investigation shows the opposite. In Germany, France and the UK, security services found no evidence in contrast with the reports. The French security chief dismissed the claims of the Macron campaign saying the hack“was so generic and simple that it could have been practically anyone.”

5) The purported “crimes” have been wildly inflated. 

The leaking of DNC and Podesta emails has been inflated into an “attack on US democracy” and “act of war”. Not to be outdone in the hyperbole department, the Washington Post article calls this “the crime of the century”. It’s quite astounding; even if Russia was guilty of hacking the DNC servers and promoting anti-Clinton campaign on social media, which is debatable, the notion that this was an “act of war” is preposterous. These events were secondary problems for the Clinton campaign. The FBI closing and then re-opening the criminal investigation of Clinton’s use of her private computers for public work was a bigger factor. There are many real problems with the democratic process in the USA and talking about them, whether on RT or elsewhere, is good not bad. Even a former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, questions whether the U.S. is a democracy saying:

Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence…

6) The anti-Russia hysteria has reduced resistance to reactionary changes in domestic policy.

There is an immediate need to build maximum opposition to Trump policies including the loss of net neutrality, increase in military spending, reductions in environmental protection, education and health care budgets, etc.. The anti-Russia and “hate Trump” campaigns have reduced the credibility of liberals and progressives with conservatives and make it harder to build resistance to changes which hurt the working class and poor.

7) The DNC and Podesta leaks were not bad; they were good.

Far from being an “attack on democracy”, the leaks of DNC and Podesta emails were positive. They exposed that the DNC itself was preventing the will of Democratic Party members in choosing their candidate. The releases exposed how the Democratic National Committee (DNC) leadership conspired and acted to boost Clinton and prevent a successful challenge by Sanders. If there was an “attack on democracy” it was by the DNC leadership itself not the public release of authentic emails.

8) Social media criticizing Clinton was not bad; much of the criticism was accurate.

The intelligence agency assessment blames Russia for undermining “public faith in the US democratic process”, denigrating Secretary Clinton and harming “her electability and potential presidency”. They suggest Russia was responsible for anti-Clinton online messages, tweets, facebook posts, etc.. This is silly. It was predictable that Hillary Clinton would generate a lot of opposition during the Presidential campaign. She is a magnet for right and left wing criticism. She is strongly disliked by many progressives for good and real reasons. From her aggressive and warlike foreign policy to the horrible role of the Clinton Foundation in Haiti, there are many deep and profound things to criticize. Social media was alive with tweets, pages, posts and campaigns against Clinton. It is self-deception to think this was initiated or controlled in any substantial way by Moscow. The criticism and opposition to Hillary Clinton was sincere and home grown. While some criticism may have been undeserved, much of the criticism of Clinton was accurate and well founded.

9) The anti-Russia hysteria distracts from an objective evaluation of why the Democratic Party lost.

Instead of doing an honest and objective assessment of the election failure, the Democratic Party has invested enormous time and resources in promoting the narrative of Russian “meddling” and collusion with Trump. If they want to regain popularity, they need to review their leadership which has changed very little in over 15 years. They need to re-assess unpopular policies and their prioritization of Wall Street. If the DNC had run a clean primary race, Sanders probably would have prevailed over Clinton in the primary race and gone on to beat Donald Trump for president. The Democratic Party leadership has nobody to blame but themselves for their defeat.

10) The anti-Russia hysteria reduces resistance to neoconservative forces pushing for more war.

Neoconservatives and the military industrial complex are campaigning for another war in the Middle East. The immediate flashpoint is Syria where the Syrian government and allies are making slow but steady progress defeating tens of thousands of foreign funded extremists. In response, the US and allies are escalating intervention and aggression trying to prolong the conflict and/or grab territory to block a Syrian victory. The situation is potentially disastrous with the neocons threatening war on Iran and even Russia. The Democratic and liberal hysteria around Russia has confused huge numbers of people about the situation who now think Russia is the ‘enemy’. The anti-Russia hysteria is leading liberals to ally with the CIA and war hawks instead of confronting them as the danger of confrontation keeps rising.

Conclusion

Democrats and liberals in the U.S. are making a huge mistake uncritically accepting and promoting the anti-Russia demonization. The accusations of Russian “meddling” are either exaggerated or false. There is an urgent need to resist Trump’s assault on positive domestic policies and oppose the slide towards a new war in the Middle East. If this is not stopped, there is a real risk of global and possibly nuclear war.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com.

July 7, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

MSM, Still Living in Propaganda-ville

By Robert Parry | Consortium news | July 6, 2017

As much as the U.S. mainstream media wants people to believe that it is the Guardian of Truth, it is actually lost in a wilderness of propaganda and falsehoods, a dangerous land of delusion that is putting the future of humankind at risk as tensions escalate with nuclear-armed Russia.

This media problem has grown over recent decades as lucrative careerism has replaced responsible professionalism. Pack journalism has always been a threat to quality reporting but now it has evolved into a self-sustaining media lifestyle in which the old motto, “there’s safety in numbers,” is borne out by the fact that being horrendously wrong, such as on Iraq’s WMD, leads to almost no accountability because so many important colleagues were wrong as well.

Similarly, there has been no accountability after many mainstream journalists and commentators falsely stated as flat-fact that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” concurred that Russia did “meddle” in last November’s U.S. election.

For months, this claim has been the go-to put-down whenever anyone questions the groupthink of Russian venality perverting American democracy. Even the esteemed “Politifact” deemed the assertion “true.” But it was never true.

It was at best a needled distortion of a claim by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper when he issued a statement last Oct. 7 alleging Russian meddling. Because Clapper was the chief of the U.S. Intelligence Community, his opinion morphed into a claim that it represented the consensus of all 17 intelligence agencies, a dishonest twist that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton began touting.

However, for people who understand how the U.S. Intelligence Community works, the claim of a 17-agencies consensus has a specific meaning, some form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE) that seeks out judgments and dissents from the various agencies.

But there was no NIE regarding alleged Russian meddling and there apparently wasn’t even a formal assessment from a subset of the agencies at the time of Clapper’s statement. President Obama did not order a publishable assessment until December – after the election – and it was not completed until Jan. 6, when a report from Clapper’s office presented the opinions of analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency – three agencies (or four if you count the DNI’s office), not 17.

Lacking Hard Evidence

The report also contained no hard evidence of a Russian “hack” and amounted to a one-sided circumstantial case at best. However, by then, the U.S. mainstream media had embraced the “all-17-intelligence-agencies” refrain and anyone who disagreed, including President Trump, was treated as delusional. The argument went: “How can anyone question what all 17 intelligence agencies have confirmed as true?”

It wasn’t until May 8 when then-former DNI Clapper belatedly set the record straight in sworn congressional testimony in which he explained that there were only three “contributing agencies” from which analysts were “hand-picked.”

The reference to “hand-picked” analysts pricked the ears of some former U.S. intelligence analysts who had suffered through earlier periods of “politicized” intelligence when malleable analysts were chosen to deliver what their political bosses wanted to hear.

On May 23, also in congressional testimony, former CIA Director John Brennan confirmed Clapper’s description, saying only four of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies took part in the assessment.

Brennan said the Jan. 6 report “followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions. It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It wasn’t a full inter-agency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies.”

After this testimony, some of the major news organizations, which had been waving around the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme, subtly changed their phrasing to either depict Russian “meddling” as an established fact no longer requiring attribution or referred to the “unanimous judgment” of the Intelligence Community without citing a specific number.

This “unanimous judgment” formulation was deceptive, too, because it suggested that all 17 agencies were in accord albeit without exactly saying that. For a regular reader of The New York Times or a frequent viewer of CNN, the distinction would almost assuredly not be detected.

For more than a month after the Clapper-Brennan testimonies, there was no formal correction.

A Belated Correction

Finally, on June 25, the Times’ hand was forced when White House correspondent Maggie Haberman reverted to the old formulation, mocking Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

When this falsehood was called to the Times’ attention, it had little choice but to append a correction to the article, noting that the intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

The Associated Press ran a similar “clarification” applied to some of its fallacious reporting repeating the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme.

So, you might have thought that the mainstream media was finally adjusting its reporting to conform to reality. But that would mean that one of the pillars of the Russia-gate “scandal” had crumbled, the certainty that Russia and Putin did “meddle” in the election.

The story would have to go back to square one and the major news organizations would have to begin reporting on whether or not there ever was solid evidence to support what had become a “certainty” – and there appeared to be no stomach for such soul-searching. Since pretty much all the important media figures had made the same error, it would be much easier to simply move on as if nothing had changed.

That would mean that skepticism would still be unwelcome and curious leads would not be followed. For instance, there was a head-turning reference in an otherwise typical Washington Post take-out on June 25 accusing Russia of committing “the crime of the century.”

A reference, stuck deep inside the five-page opus, said, “Some of the most critical technical intelligence on Russia came from another country, officials said. Because of the source of the material, the NSA was reluctant to view it with high confidence.”

Though the Post did not identify the country, this reference suggests that more than one key element of the case for Russian culpability was based not on direct investigations by the U.S. intelligence agencies, but on the work of external organizations.

Earlier, the Democratic National Committee denied the FBI access to its supposedly hacked computers, forcing the investigators to rely on a DNC contractor called CrowdStrike, which has a checkered record of getting this sort of analytics right and whose chief technology officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, is an anti-Putin Russian émigré with ties to the anti-Russian think tank, Atlantic Council.

Relying on Outsiders

You might be wondering why something as important as this “crime of the century,” which has pushed the world closer to nuclear annihilation, is dependent on dubious entities outside the U.S. government with possible conflicts of interest.

If the U.S. government really took this issue seriously, which it should, why didn’t the FBI seize the DNC’s computers and insist that impartial government experts lead the investigation? And why – given the extraordinary expertise of the NSA in computer hacking – is “some of the most critical technical intelligence on Russia [coming] from another country,” one that doesn’t inspire the NSA’s confidence?

But such pesky questions are not likely to be asked or answered by a mainstream U.S. media that displays deep-seated bias toward both Putin and Trump.

Mostly, major news outlets continue to brush aside the clarifications and return to various formulations that continue to embrace the “17-intelligence-agencies” canard, albeit in slightly different forms, such as references to the collective Intelligence Community without the specific number. Anyone who questions this established conventional wisdom is still crazy and out of step.

For instance, James Holmes of Esquire was stunned on Thursday when Trump at a news conference in Poland reminded the traveling press corps about the inaccurate reporting regarding the 17 intelligence agencies and said he still wasn’t entirely sure about Russia’s guilt.

“In public, he’s still casting doubt on the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election nearly nine months after the fact,” Holmes sputtered before describing Trump’s comment as a “rant.”

So, if you thought that a chastened mainstream media might stop in the wake of the “17-intelligence-agencies” falsehood and rethink the whole Russia-gate business, you would have been sadly mistaken.

But the problem is not just the question of whether Russia hacked into Democratic emails and slipped them to WikiLeaks for publication (something that both Russia and WikiLeaks deny). Perhaps the larger danger is how the major U.S. news outlets have adopted a consistently propagandistic approach toward everything relating to Russia.

Hating Putin

This pattern traces back to the earliest days of Vladimir Putin’s presidency in 2000 when he began to rein in the U.S.-prescribed “shock therapy,” which had sold off Russia’s assets to well-connected insiders, making billions of dollars for the West-favored “oligarchs,” even as the process threw millions of average Russian into poverty.

But the U.S. mainstream media’s contempt for Putin reached new heights after he helped President Obama head off neoconservative (and liberal interventionist) demands for a full-scale U.S. military assault on Syria in August 2013 and helped bring Iran into a restrictive nuclear agreement when the neocons wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran.

The neocons delivered their payback to Putin in early 2014 by supporting a violent coup in Ukraine, overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian regime. The U.S. operation was spearheaded by neocon National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, with enthusiastic support from neocon Sen. John McCain.

Nuland was heard in an intercepted pre-coup phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should become the new leaders and pondering how to “glue” or “midwife this thing.”

Despite the clear evidence of U.S. interference in Ukrainian politics, the U.S. government and the mainstream media embraced the coup and accused Putin of “aggression” when ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, called the Donbas, resisted the coup regime.

When ethnic Russians and other citizens in Crimea voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to reject the coup regime and rejoin Russia – a move protected by some of the 20,000 Russian troops inside Crimea as part of a basing agreement – that became a Russian “invasion.” But it was the most peculiar “invasion,” since there were no images of tanks crashing across borders or amphibious landing craft on Crimean beaches, because no such “invasion” had occurred.

However, in virtually every instance, the U.S. mainstream media insisted on the most extreme anti-Russian propaganda line and accused people who questioned this Official Narrative of disseminating Russian “propaganda” – or being a “Moscow stooge” or acting as a “useful fool.” There was no tolerance for skepticism about whatever the State Department or the Washington think tanks were saying.

Trump Meets Putin

So, as Trump prepares for his first meeting with Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the U.S. mainstream media has been in a frenzy, linking up its groupthinks about the Ukraine “invasion” with its groupthinks about Russian “hacking” the election.

In a July 3 editorial, The Washington Post declared, “Mr. Trump simply cannot fail to admonish Mr. Putin for Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. He must make clear the United States will not tolerate it, period. Naturally, this is a difficult issue for Mr. Trump, who reaped the benefit of Russia’s intervention and now faces a special counsel’s investigation, but nonetheless, in his first session with Mr. Putin, the president must not hesitate to be blunt. …

“On Ukraine, Mr. Trump must also display determination. Russia fomented an armed uprising and seized Crimea in violation of international norms, and it continues to instigate violence in the Donbas. Mr. Trump ought to make it unmistakably clear to Mr.Putin that the United States will not retreat from the sanctions imposed over Ukraine until the conditions of peace agreements are met.”

Along the same lines, even while suggesting the value of some collaboration with Russia toward ending the war in Syria, Post columnist David Ignatius wrote in a July 5 column, “Russian-American cooperation on Syria faces a huge obstacle right now. It would legitimize a Russian regime that invaded Ukraine and meddled in U.S. and European elections, in addition to its intervention in Syria.”

Note the smug certainty of Ignatius and the Post editors. There is no doubt that Russia “invaded” Ukraine; “seized” Crimea; “meddled” in U.S. and European elections. Yet all these groupthinks should be subjected to skepticism, not simply treated as undeniable truths.

But seeing only one side to a story is where the U.S. mainstream media is at this point in history. Yes, it is possible that Russia was responsible for the Democratic hacks and did funnel the material to WikiLeaks, but evidence has so far been lacking. And, instead of presenting both sides fairly, the major media acts as if only one side deserves any respect and dissenting views must be ridiculed and condemned.

In this perverted process, collectively approved versions of complex situations congeal into conventional wisdom, which simply cannot be significantly reconsidered regardless of future revelations.

As offensive as this rejection of true truth-seeking may be, it also represents an extraordinary danger when mixed with the existential risk of nuclear conflagration.

With the stakes this high, the demand for hard evidence – and the avoidance of soft-minded groupthink – should go without question. Journalists and commentators should hold themselves to professional precision, not slide into sloppy careerism, lost in “propaganda-ville.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments