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Flynn Case Highlights Deep Political Corruption of US Security Services

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 07.12.2017

Former US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is cooperating with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller to determine whether Donald Trump’s associates colluded with Russian government officials during the 2016 electoral campaign and also in the two months before president-elect Trump assumed office on January 20th. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agents regarding two late December telephone exchanges with former Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.

The first call was initiated at the request of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and related to Russia’s possible use of its United Nations Security Council veto to stop a resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlements, as the Barack Obama Administration had decided to abstain to send a message of disapproval to Tel Aviv. If Russia had agreed, which it did not, it would have meant conniving with Moscow to do something sought by Israel and opposed by the elected government still in power in Washington.

The second call possibly was requested by Donald Trump himself and was made while Flynn was lying on a beach in the Dominican Republic. It sought Russian agreement not to escalate the tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats that had been set in motion by the outgoing Obama administration. Russia delayed any possible expulsions, eventually implementing them when the Trump administration proved unable to mitigate other sanctions put in place by Obama. Both phone calls took place after the American election. Neither had anything to do with possible collusion regarding the election.

Flynn’s admission that he was lying is believed to be part of an agreement with Mueller, presumably eliminating a possible jail sentence and reducing the actual penalty to payment of a fine. Mueller will undoubtedly seek Flynn’s evidence confirming that he and both Kushner and Trump were all acting in violation of the Logan Act of 1799, which they quite possibly had never heard of, that bars private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on behalf of the United States. At the time of the phone calls, neither Flynn nor Kushner nor Trump held any actual government office, but it should also be pointed out that no one has ever been convicted under the Logan Act and the de facto status of an incoming administration as a precedent for engaging with foreign powers has never been tested.

The Logan Act aside, the real purpose of the investigation is to “get” Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. If it were otherwise, Mueller would be looking hard at the Israeli connection since it is clear from the time line that Israel had approached Kushner who then asked Flynn to make the phone call. The New York Times described the sequence of events as “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel…” The Israeli overture is a clear example of actual foreign government interference in United States politics and foreign policy, but the interference was by Israel and not by Russia.

The Flynn case is also a prime example of how the American security services have been politically corrupted, but it is unlikely that Mueller will have any interest in that aspect of the case as the investigation itself has become little more than a political witch hunt in which the Washington-New York Establishment is seeking to explain why its candidate lost in November. Flynn was interviewed by the FBI regarding his two phone conversations on January 24th shortly after he assumed office as National Security Adviser. During his interview, he was not made aware that the Bureau already had recordings and transcripts of his phone conversations, so, in a manner of speaking, he was being set-up to fail. Mis-remembering, forgetting or attempting to avoid implication of others in the administration would inevitably all be plausibly construed as lying since the FBI knew exactly what was said.

The argument used to justify the possible Flynn entrapment by the FBI, i.e. that there was unauthorized contact with a foreign official, is in itself curious as such contact is not in itself illegal. And it also opens the door to the Bureau’s investigating other individuals who have committed no crime but who find that they cannot recall details of phone calls they were parties to that were being recorded by the government. That can easily be construed as “lying” or “perjury” with consequences that include possible prison time.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

The Scalp-Taking of Gen. Flynn

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | December 1, 2017

Russia-gate enthusiasts are thrilled over the guilty plea of President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about pre-inauguration conversations with the Russian ambassador, but the case should alarm true civil libertarians.

What is arguably most disturbing about this case is that then-National Security Adviser Flynn was pushed into a perjury trap by Obama administration holdovers at the Justice Department who concocted an unorthodox legal rationale for subjecting Flynn to an FBI interrogation four days after he took office, testing Flynn’s recollection of the conversations while the FBI agents had transcripts of the calls intercepted by the National Security Agency.

In other words, the Justice Department wasn’t seeking information about what Flynn said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – the intelligence agencies already had that information. Instead, Flynn was being quizzed on his precise recollection of the conversations and nailed for lying when his recollections deviated from the transcripts.

For Americans who worry about how the pervasive surveillance powers of the U.S. government could be put to use criminalizing otherwise constitutionally protected speech and political associations, Flynn’s prosecution represents a troubling precedent.

Though Flynn clearly can be faulted for his judgment, he was, in a sense, a marked man the moment he accepted the job of national security adviser. In summer 2016, Democrats seethed over Flynn’s participation in chants at the Republican National Convention to “lock her [Hillary Clinton] up!”

Then, just four days into the Trump presidency, an Obama holdover, then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates, primed the Flynn perjury trap by coming up with a novel legal theory that Flynn – although the national security adviser-designate at the time of his late December phone calls with Kislyak – was violating the 1799 Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from interfering with U.S. foreign policy.

But that law – passed during President John Adams’s administration in the era of the Alien and Sedition Acts – was never intended to apply to incoming officials in the transition period between elected presidential administrations and – in the past 218 years – the law has resulted in no successful prosecution at all and thus its dubious constitutionality has never been adjudicated.

Stretching Logic

But Yates extrapolated from her unusual Logan Act theory to speculate that since Flynn’s publicly known explanation of the conversation with Kislyak deviated somewhat from the transcript of the intercepts, Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

Yet, that bizarre speculation would require that the Russians first would have detected the discrepancies; secondly, they would have naively assumed that the U.S. intelligence agencies had not intercepted the conversations, which would have negated any blackmail potential; and thirdly, the Russians would have to do something so ridiculously heavy-handed – trying to blackmail Flynn – that it would poison relations with the new Trump administration.

Yates’s legal theorizing was so elastic and speculative that it could be used to justify subjecting almost anyone to FBI interrogation with the knowledge that their imperfect memories would guarantee the grounds for prosecution based on NSA intercepts of their communications.

Basically, the Obama holdovers concocted a preposterous legal theory to do whatever they could to sabotage the Trump administration, which they held in fulsome disdain.

At the time of Flynn’s interrogation, the Justice Department was under the control of Yates and the FBI was still under President Obama’s FBI Director James Comey, another official hostile to the Trump administration who later was fired by Trump.

The Yates-FBI perjury trap also was sprung on Flynn in the first days of the Trump presidency amid reverberations of the massive anti-Trump protests that had arisen across the country in support of demands for a “#Resistance” to Trump’s rule.

Flynn also had infuriated Democrats when he joined in chants at the Republican National Convention of “lock her up” over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and other alleged offenses. So, in targeting Flynn, there was a mix of personal payback and sabotage against the Trump administration.

The Legal Construct

The two-page complaint against Flynn, made public on Friday, references false statements to the FBI regarding two conversations with Kisylak, one on Dec. 22, 2016, and the other on Dec. 29, 2016.

The first item in the complaint alleges that Flynn did not disclose that he had asked the Russian ambassador to help delay or defeat a United Nations Security Council vote censuring Israel for building settlements on Palestinian territory.

The New York Times reported on Friday that Russia-gate investigators “learned through witnesses and documents that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel, according to two people briefed on the inquiry.

“Investigators have learned that Mr. Flynn and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, took the lead in those efforts. Mr. Mueller’s team has emails that show Mr. Flynn saying he would work to kill the vote, the people briefed on the matter said,” according to the Times.

Breaking with past U.S. precedents, President Obama had decided not to veto the resolution criticizing Israel, choosing instead to abstain. However, the censure resolution carried with Russian support, meaning that whatever lobbying Flynn and Kushner undertook was unsuccessful.

But the inclusion of this Israeli element shows how far afield the criminal Russia-gate investigation, headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, has gone. Though the original point of the inquiry was whether the Trump team colluded with Russians to use “hacked” emails to defeat Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the criminal charge against Flynn has nothing to do with election “collusion” but rather President-elect Trump’s aides weighing in on foreign policy controversies during the transition. And, one of these initiatives was undertaken at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, not Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The second item, cited by Mueller’s prosecutors, referenced a Dec. 29 Flynn-Kislyak conversation, which received public attention at the time of Flynn’s Feb. 13 resignation after only 24 days on the job. That phone call touched on Russia’s response to President Obama’s decision to issue new sanctions against the Kremlin for the alleged election interference.

The complaint alleges that Flynn didn’t mention to the FBI that he had urged Kislyak “to refrain from escalating the situation” and that Kislyak had subsequently told him that “Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request.”

The Dec. 29 phone call occurred while Flynn was vacationing in the Dominican Republic and thus he would have been without the usual support staff for memorializing or transcribing official conversations. So, the FBI agents, with the NSA’s transcripts, would have had a clearer account of what was said than Flynn likely had from memory. The content of Flynn’s request to Kislyak also appears rather uncontroversial, asking the Russians not to overreact to a punitive policy from the outgoing Obama administration.

In other words, both of the Flynn-Kislyak conversations appear rather unsurprising, if not inconsequential. One was taken at the behest of Israel (which proved ineffective) and the other urged the Kremlin to show restraint in its response to a last-minute slap from President Obama (which simply delayed Russian retaliation by a few months).

Double Standards

While Flynn’s humiliation has brought some palpable joy to the anti-Trump “Resistance” – one more Trump aide being taken down amid renewed hope that this investigation will somehow lead to Trump’s resignation or impeachment – many of the same people would be howling about trampled civil liberties if a Republican bureaucracy were playing this game on a Democratic president and his staff.

Indeed, in the turnabout-is-fair-play department, there is some equivalence in what is happening over Russia-gate to what the Republicans did in the 1990s exploiting their control of the special-prosecutor apparatus in the first years of Bill Clinton’s presidency when interminable investigations into such side issues as his Whitewater real-estate deal and the firing of the White House travel office staff plagued the Clinton administration.

Similarly, Republicans seized on the deaths of four U.S. diplomatic personnel on Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, to conduct a series of lengthy investigations to tarnish Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure and raise questions about her judgment. Democrats understandably called these attacks partisan warfare in legal or investigative garb.

What I have heard from many Hillary Clinton supporters in recent months is that they don’t care about the unfairness of the Russia-gate process or the dangerous precedents that such politicized prosecutions might set. They simply view Trump as such a danger that he must be destroyed at whatever the cost.

Yet, besides the collateral damage inflicted on mid-level government officials such as retired Lt. Gen. Flynn facing personal destruction at the hands of federal prosecutors with unlimited budgets, there is this deepening pattern of using criminal law to settle political differences, a process more common in authoritarian states.

As much as the Russia-gate enthusiasts talk about how they are upholding “the rule of law,” there is the troubling appearance that the law is simply being used to collect the scalps of political enemies.

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

December 1, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , , | 1 Comment

US Bows to Israeli/Saudi Alliance in Blaming Iran

By Ted Snider | Consortium News | November 29, 2107

At first, American officials couldn’t believe it. In 1993, the Israelis began pressuring the Clinton administration to view Iran as the greatest global threat. Only a short time earlier, in the 1980s, Israel had been cooperating with the Iranians militarily and selling them weapons to fight Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

Back then, the Israelis were Iran’s best lobbyists in Washington, pushing the Reagan administration to talk to Iran, to sell arms to Iran, and even to ignore Iran’s tough talk on Israel. In that process, Israel was aided by a group of staunchly pro-Israeli officials within the Reagan administration whom we now know as the neoconservatives.

In 1981, just months after Iran had held 52 American diplomatic personnel hostage for 444 days, senior State Department officials Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz were advocating on behalf of the Israeli desire to sell Iran weapons. That initiative, which was continued by McFarlane when he became President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, ultimately led to the Iran-Contra scandal of 1986 when Reagan’s secret approval of U.S. arms shipments to Iran became public.

Yet, even in the wake of that scandal and the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, the neoconservatives who remained influential under Reagan’s successor, President George H.W. Bush, pressed ahead with the goal of getting the U.S. to warm its relations with Iran. Iraq’s defeat at the hands of the U.S. military and its allies in the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 further reduced the Arab threat to Israel’s security and encouraged more thinking about a possible U.S.-Iranian détente.

The Bush-I administration’s 1991 “National Security Strategy of the United States” said the U.S. was open to “an improved relationship with Iran,” a country that a 1991 National Intelligence Estimate said was “turning away from revolutionary excesses . . . toward more conventional behavior.”

However, in 1993, with the Clinton administration in power, the Israelis changed their tune, urging the U.S. government to find Iran lurking behind every terrorist attack, every conflict and every threat.

There appear to have been several factors leading to this Israeli switch – from the fact that the Cold War was over and thus Arab states that had relied on Soviet weaponry were weakened; that Iran-backed Hezbollah was challenging Israel’s military occupation of southern Lebanon; and that Israel could no longer profit from Iran’s desperate need for weapons (with the war with Iraq over and Iran’s treasury depleted) while the Arab oil states offered a more lucrative opportunity for both geopolitical and financial gain.

Hooked on the Money

Israeli leadership had found the billions of dollars from arms sales to Iran useful in maintaining Israel’s large military/intelligence infrastructure as well as Israel’s development of Jewish settlements inside Palestinian territories on the West Bank. With that cash source gone, Israel began recalculating its longstanding Periphery Strategy, which had called for countering Arab pressure from close-in states by cultivating relations with non-Arab regional powers on the periphery, such as Iran and Turkey.

There were also two other seismic events that altered the geopolitical landscape. The Cold War was over and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been humiliated in the Persian Gulf War. While the Israelis saw both events as positive, there were unintended consequences. The end of the Cold War meant the exit of the Soviet Union from the Middle East: that left Israel’s traditional Arab enemies even more enfeebled and the U.S. government less worried about losing influence in the oil-rich region. Iran also emerged as relatively stronger than Iraq due to Iraq’s failed invasion of Iran and its catastrophic defeat after its invasion of Kuwait.

Israel’s 1992 elections also brought Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and the Labor Party to power, raising the possibility of finally reaching a peace accord with the Palestinians and thus the possibility of more normalized relations with the Arab world. In turn, that raised the potential for more lucrative arrangements with oil-rich sheikdoms by, in effect, renting out the Israel Lobby to the Sunni-ruled Gulf states so they could push their historic conflict with the Shiites whose power base was Iran.

“There was a feeling in Israel that because of the end of the Cold War, relations with the U.S. were cooling and we needed some new glue for the alliance,” Efraim Inbar of the Begin-Sadat Center told Trita Parsi. “And the new glue was radical Islam.”

But it was a very selective kind of radical Islam: not the kind Saudi Arabia was financing and exporting through Wahhabi fundamentalism and violent jihadists like those in Al Qaeda, but Iran’s radical Shiite Islam. Selling Iran as the number one global terror threat gave birth to a new Middle East enemy that replaced the Soviet Union and reinflated Israel’s value to the U.S. in the region. “Iran,” Inbar went on to explain, “was radical Islam.”

A New Alliance

For the first time, an alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States became possible with Iran as the designated enemy. The Israeli-Saudi relationship has evolved mostly in secret over the past couple of decades but has popped into view in recent years as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his inner circle have emphasized the common interests – especially animosity toward Iran – that they share with Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu has recently referred to this Israeli-Saudi alliance when he said that Iran was driving Israel into cooperative arrangements with what he called “the modern Sunni states.” He referred to “a new alliance between Israel and Islamic states. … The good news is that the other guys are getting together with Israel as never before. It is something that I would have never expected in my lifetime.”

Nine months ago, Netanyahu delivered the same message when he said “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.”

Though the Israeli-Saudi relationship is rarely spoken of out loud, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz admitted recently that Israel “has ties that are . . . partly covert with many Muslim and Arab countries.” Saudi Arabia was the only one he specifically named. According to Reuters, he said those ties are fueled by “common concerns over Iran.”

But there are other foundations for this relationship. For years, Saudi Arabia sought to buy influence in Washington’s policy circles regarding the Middle East but was largely unsuccessful because Israel had cornered that market and Israel’s influential American supporters demonized lobbyists, academics and others who took Saudi money. Eventually, it became clear to Saudi Arabia that it made more sense to rent out Israel’s sophisticated lobbying apparatus rather than to fight it.

Investigative journalist Robert Parry reported that Saudi money helped seal this Israel-Saudi alliance, with the Saudis giving Israel billions of dollars and Israel reciprocating by giving Saudi Arabia added influence in Washington.

But Official Washington was surprised in the 1990s when Israel’s turnabout began — and Iran went from being a misunderstood nation tilting toward moderation to the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. Despite some bewilderment, U.S. policymakers soon readjusted their rhetoric as the legendary Israeli influence operations carried the day. Shiite Iran became the new terror threat, even after the 9/11 attacks that were organized by Al Qaeda, a Sunni fundamentalist group associated with Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic State

The gap between the facts on the ground – the recognition that Al Qaeda and Islamic State remain the real chief terror threats from radical Islam – and the propaganda of principally blaming Iran for terrorism has led to a quandary for U.S./Israeli propagandists. They want to focus Americans’ fury on Iran and its allies, Syria and Hezbollah, but it is Saudi-and-Gulf-connected terror groups, such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State, that were chopping off heads of innocents and sponsoring terrorist attacks in the U.S. and Europe.

That disconnected reality explains why America’s response to the emergence of the Islamic State can best be characterized as confused and bizarre. Though the Obama administration claimed it was taken by surprise by the Islamic State’s emergence in Iraq and Syria, it really wasn’t. Rather, policymakers had sought to persuade the American public on the need for a “regime change” conflict in Syria, an Iranian ally. This strategy went back years.

A WikiLeaks-released cable dated Dec. 13, 2006, and written by the charge d’affaires of the U.S. embassy in Damascus to the Secretary of State recommended that the U.S. “coordinate more closely with” Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a policy to weaken President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria and “to play on Sunni fears of Iranian influence.” The cable also recognized that Islamist extremists were “certainly a long-term threat” to the Syrian government.

Over the years, there was little change in this inconvenient truth that jihadists were playing a crucial role in achieving these geopolitical goals.  For instance, in a December 2009 cable, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban . . . and other terrorist groups.”

By Aug. 12, 2012, the U.S. government knew explicitly that Islamic extremists were the engine in the Syrian insurgency. A classified Defense Intelligence Agency Information Intelligence Report unambiguously declares that “The salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq, later ISIS and the Islamic State] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

Section 8.C. of the report astonishingly predicts that “If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared salafist principality in eastern Syria.” Section 8.D.1. of the report goes on specifically to say that “ISI could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”

So, the U.S. government knew that the Islamic extremists drove the Syrian insurgency that Washington and its regional allies were supporting. U.S. intelligence analysts also had a surprisingly good idea what the possible outcome of that support was.

Yet, to advance the regional goals of the Israeli-Saudi tandem – i.e., the overthrow of the Syrian government because of its ties to Iran – the U.S. government was, in effect, supporting the very terrorists the war on terror was meant to eradicate.

Selling Al Qaeda

At times, senior Israeli officials made clear their preferences for Sunni extremists over more moderate Arabs associated with Shiite-ruled Iran. For instance, in September 2013, then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Syria’s largely secular President Bashar al-Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in the interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Oren reiterated this position in June 2014 at an Aspen Institute conference. Speaking as a former ambassador, Oren said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was then massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria.

“From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” said Oren, who is now a member of the Knesset and part of Netanyahu’s government.

Other senior Israelis have expressed similar sentiments. Sima Shine, who is in charge of Iran for Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, urged Assad’s removal even if that might turn Syria over to extremists. “The ‘devil we know’ is worse than the devil we don’t,” she said in June 2013. “If Bashar remains in power, that would be a huge achievement for Iran.”

So, in 2014, when Islamic State jihadists advanced through Syria and Iraq and knocked on the door of Lebanon, their success should not have come as a surprise to President Obama and other U.S. policymakers. Today’s Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have in common that they are Iran’s three principal allies in the region.

In other words, the Islamic State’s interests largely corresponded to those of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.: isolating and weakening Iran. Only the Islamic State’s shocking excesses of videotaped beheadings of Americans and other captives – as well as its military successes inside Iraq – forced President Obama’s hand in committing U.S. forces to stop the Islamic State onslaught.

Obsessed with Assad

Still, America has long been bent on removing Assad from Syria. The coincidence of Islamic State and American interests in this regard is revealed in section 8.C of the DIA report: “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

So, the Islamic State’s advance into this region was consistent with American (and more to the point, Israeli and Saudi) interests because these Sunni extremists would block the supply lines from Iran to Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Thus, initially at least, the U.S. government acquiesced to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front taking the lead in damaging or destroying Iran’s allies in Syria.

And Iran suspected as much. According to Iran expert Trita Parsi, the Iranians believed that the initial relaxed approach by the U.S. government toward the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front was because those militants were the point of the spear against pro-Iranian Shiite influences in not only Syria but Iraq and Lebanon as well.

So, the Saudi government provided the “clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region,” according to a leaked Hillary Clinton email on Sept. 17, 2014.

Less than a month later, on Oct. 2, 2014, Vice President Biden told a seminar at Harvard’s Kennedy School that “the Saudis, the emirates … poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis.”

The DIA report also named the Gulf States as among the “supporting powers” of the Syrian opposition. And at a May 2015 meeting between President Obama and the Princes of the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “Obama and other US officials urged Gulf leaders who are funding the opposition to keep control of their clients, so that a post-Assad regime isn’t controlled by extremists from the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.”

However, with the Israel lobby redirecting Official Washington’s ire toward Iran, more political space was created for these Saudi-connected terror groups to carry out the regime change missions in Syria and elsewhere.

And Israel didn’t just prefer a victory in Syria by the extremists of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. United Nations observers in the Golan Heights reported witnessing cooperation between Israel and Syrian rebels, and Israel has frequently bombed Syrian targets (and here and here).

Netanyahu also reported that Israel has hit Hezbollah forces fighting against the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in Syria dozens of times. Recently, it has been revealed that Israel also provided funding, food and fuel to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.

Lebanon’s Crisis

But the Syrian “regime change” strategy didn’t work. With help from Iran and Hezbollah and Russia’s intervention in 2015, Assad and his army not only survived but routed the Islamic State, Al Qaeda’s Nusra and other jihadists from major urban strongholds. Instead of Iran losing an ally in the region, Iran emerged with a stronger alliance and greater influence.

This setback, however, has not changed the Israeli-Saudi priorities; it has only made them more intense. As the outcome in Syria became more apparent, the anti-Iran gun sight pivoted to Lebanon. The recent confusing events in Lebanon, like the earlier ones in Syria, are best made sense of by looking through the gun barrel that is targeted on Iran.

On Nov. 4, after being summoned to Saudi Arabia, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri unexpectedly and mysteriously resigned. Hariri’s resignation came just one day after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior foreign policy advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, that was reportedly very positive. Velayati praised Hariri and reaffirmed Iran’s support for his coalition government.

Yet, a day later, speaking from Saudi Arabia, Hariri claimed his resignation was catalyzed by fear of an Iranian-Hezbollah assassination. But the Lebanese army said “it had not uncovered any plans for assassinations in Lebanon.” Neither had the army. So, why resign?

The clue may be provided by Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, who expressed Saudi Arabia’s desire for “toppling Hizbullah.” He promised that “The coming developments will definitely be astonishing.” He said the desire was not just his own, and that people “will see what will happen in the coming days.”

The Saudis said Hariri resigned because Hezbollah had “hijacked” his coalition government. Al-Sabhan called Hezbollah “the Party of Satan.”

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, said that the resignation was “imposed on Prime Minister Hariri” by the Saudis. Nasrallah said Hezbollah did not want Hariri to resign, having been a part of Hariri’s coalition government for almost a year. Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, seemed to share Nasrallah’s suspicion, insisting that he would not accept Hariri’s resignation until Hariri returned to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia because his “resignation must be voluntary.”

In Lebanon, there was the suspicion that Hariri was held under house arrest. On Nov. 10, President Aoun told a meeting of foreign ambassadors that Hariri had been “kidnapped.”

Now, having finally returned to Lebanon after a French intervention brought him to Paris, Hariri met with President Aoun who asked him “to temporarily suspend submitting [his resignation] and to put it on hold ahead of further consultations on the reasons for it.” Hariri agreed.

Israel seems to have applauded Saudi Arabia’s Lebanese action and reaffirmed the Iranian motivation behind it. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and his statements are a wake-up call for the international community to act against Iranian aggression.”

Netanyahu also made a rare public acknowledgement of the Israeli-Saudi alliance when he said that Iran was driving Israel into cooperative arrangements with what he called “the modern Sunni states,” referring to “a new alliance between Israel and Islamic states.” According to reporting by Israel’s Channel 10, a leaked classified cable from the Israeli foreign ministry to Israeli ambassadors reveals that Israel ordered them to support Saudi Arabia’s efforts and to rally support for Hariri’s resignation.

Iran has also suggested that President Trump and the United States approve of this Lebanese intervention. The resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister came days after Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner visited Saudi Arabia on a trip that was not made known publicly.

Yemen’s Tragedy

While this new alliance took aim at Iran by targeting Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, it also has targeted a Shiite spin-off sect, the Houthis in Yemen. Since 2015, the Saudis have been bombing and blockading Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country. But on Nov. 5, Saudi Arabia expressed outrage after intercepting a ballistic missile fired by Houthi forces in Yemen toward Riyadh. The Saudis accused Iran of providing the missile and ordering the attack – and called this an “act of war” by Iran and Hezbollah.

General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, called the charge against Iran “baseless,” as did Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo. Even Saudi officials were calling the missile a Yemeni Burqan 2H missile when it was intercepted. The Houthis said they fired the missile in response to the long-running Saudi bombardment that included a recent attack that killed 26 people.

Despite these denials of Iranian responsibility and the context of Saudi Arabia’s air war, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Nikki Haley called on the U.N. to hold Iran accountable for violating U.N. Security Council resolutions by supplying the missile. She called on the U.N. to take “necessary action” against Iran.

The U.S. government has consistently rationalized the Saudi bombardment of Yemen as necessary to thwart Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf. U.S. accusations about Iran allegedly supplying the Houthis with weapons hang precariously on an “assessment” that Iran has used fishing boats to smuggle weapons into Yemen.

However, according to investigative journalist Gareth Porter, the U.S. was never able to produce any evidence for the link between Iran and the Houthis because the boats were stateless, and their destination was Somalia, not Yemen. An earlier ship was, indeed, Iranian but was not really carrying any weapons.

The Houthis also are allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who maintains control over the army, so the Houthis could get all the weapons they need from local arms supplies, including military bases stocked with American-made weapons.

And just as Iran does not substantially arm the Houthis, so it does not control them. In fact, they have proven to be beyond Tehran’s efforts to influence them. In 2014, the Iranians specifically discouraged the Houthis from capturing the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. However, the Houthis captured the city anyway, demonstrating Iran’s lack of control.

A U.S. intelligence official told The Huffington Post that “It is wrong to think of the Houthis as a proxy force for Iran.” Yemen specialist Gabriele vom Bruck has called Iran’s influence over the Houthis “trivial.” She said the Houthis want to be independent, not controlled by Iran: “I don’t think the Iranians have influence in their decision-making.” To the extent that Iran is involved in Yemen at all, that involvement came as a result of the devastating Saudi air war.

Dating back to the Obama administration, the U.S. government has made the Saudi aerial bombardment of Yemen possibleThe U.S. refuels the Saudi bombers in flight, supplies the bombs and provides targeting intelligence.

This U.S. complicity in what is widely regarded as a humanitarian catastrophe has continued into the Trump administration. A White House statement as recently as Nov. 24 reaffirmed U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, declaring: “We remain committed to supporting Saudi Arabia and all our Gulf partners against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aggression and blatant violations of international law. Backed by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Houthi rebels have used destabilizing missile systems to target Saudi Arabia.”

The statement again reveals, not only the alliance with Saudi Arabia and the silence about its devastating bombing attacks, but the strategy of turning Yemen’s human tragedy into another excuse to blame Iran. The Iranian foreign ministry said the White House statement “clearly and without question proves America’s participation and responsibility in the atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen”.

Bahrain & Qatar

Washington’s Saudi-Israeli-supplied blinders on the Middle East carry over to other regional conflicts, too. For instance, in 2011, protesters in Bahrain demanded a true constitutional monarchy, the resignation of the Prime Minister, greater civil liberties and a real elected parliament. Though Bahrain has a parliament, it is actually governed by the U.S.-backed dictator, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, whose family has ruled Bahrain for over 200 years. The prime minister, the king’s uncle, is the longest reigning prime minister in the world, in power now for nearly 40 years.

Bahrain’s population is about 70 percent Shiite, though the ruling family, the government, the army and the police are all Sunni. The Shia have long been victims of discrimination. And the government maintains its control through repression, including the use of torture. Bahrain is located between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran and is seen by the U.S. as a strategically located check on Iranian influence and power.

Though the Obama administration touted itself as a big proponent of the “Arab Spring” and its promised democratization, Washington sided with the Bahraini dictators against the majority of the Bahraini people.

Days after mass arrests and beatings of protesters, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, went through with his planned visit to Bahrain where he reaffirmed the U.S.’s strong commitment to its military relationship with Bahrain and called Bahrain’s response to the protests “very measured.” Mullen stressed the U.S.-Bahrain “partnership” and “friendship.”

On the same day, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also gave full support to the Khalifa dictatorship. The U.S. continued to support the regime and to call for “stability” and “reform”: two words that are code for standing by dictatorships.

To help put down the protests in Bahrain, 1,000 Saudi troops invaded Bahrain across a causeway that connects the countries. The Obama administration remained silent.

Qatar also has suffered under the new Saudi-Israeli alliance because Qatar has pursued a more independent foreign policy than Saudi Arabia likes and now faces a Saudi-led siege as a consequence. Former British diplomat Alastair Crooke explained that Qatar’s principal sin is seeking peaceful coexistence with Iran.

When Washington asked Saudi Arabia to make reasonable proposals for the termination of the siege, Saudi Arabia included the demand that Qatar break all ties with Iran.

In other words, many of the most important events of the past several years are best explained as attempts to weaken Iran by weakening its proxies or allies or by setting up situations that appear to implicate Iran to justify hostility toward Iran.

A problem, however, has been that the major terrorist groups that have infuriated the American public are not Iranian-linked Shiites but rather Saudi-connected fundamentalist Sunnis. Still, the claim that “Iran is the chief sponsor of terrorism” has become a rote and routine refrain from both Republicans and Democrats – as well as the U.S. mainstream media.

Much as Russia now gets blamed for every negative turn in Western democracies, Iran is the all-purpose villain whenever anything goes wrong in the Middle East. Yet, to understand these conflicts and crises, it is best to view them through the perspective of the hostility that the Saudi-Israeli alliance directs toward Iran and the acquiescence of U.S. governments, regardless of which party is in power.

November 29, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google’s Eric Schmidt, arbiter of news, has long history with Obama & Clinton

RT | November 21, 2017

Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, announced that his company will ‘de-rank’ RT’s articles online, calling them propaganda. Is he concerned for the integrity of news, or are his motives more partisan?

The 62-year-old, with an estimated wealth of $11.1 billion, has never hidden his political leanings, jumping straight into Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign long before she officially announced her candidacy. In one of John Podesta’s leaked emails, the long-time Clinton confidant and chairman of her presidential campaign told her soon-to-be campaign manager Robby Mook that he had met with Schmidt in April 2014, more than a year before Clinton told the American public that she was hoping to become their next president.

“I met with Eric Schmidt tonight… He’s ready to fund, advise recruit talent, etc. He clearly wants to be head outside advisor, but didn’t seem like he wanted to push others out. Clearly wants to get going. He’s still in DC tomorrow and would like to meet with you if you are in DC in the afternoon. I think it’s worth doing…” Podesta wrote in the email, which was published by WikiLeaks last October.

Another email, written two weeks later, showed Schmidt sharing his campaign ideas with Clinton aide Cheryl Mills. “Let’s assume a total budget of about $1.5 billion, with more than 5,000 paid employees and million(s) of volunteers,” he said.

He went on to brainstorm ideas on how to utilize technology in the campaign. It wasn’t long before The Groundwork, founded by analysts and engineers who worked on Barack Obama’s campaign and funded by Schmidt, became Clinton’s top technology provider. The Groundwork was housed in an office just a few blocks away from Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

Schmidt continued to advise Clinton on digital matters throughout the campaign.

“Eric recognizes how the technology he’s been building his whole career can be applied to different spaces. The idea of tech as a force multiplier is something he deeply understands,” The Groundwork’s Michael Slaby told Quartz in 2015.

Then there was campaign night, when a photo forwarded to Politico showed a smiling Schmidt at Clinton’s election headquarters, complete with a “staff” badge.

Schmidt’s efforts to get Clinton elected, along with Google’s overall efforts to do the same, were addressed in a November 2016 report by the Campaign for Accountability ‒ a non-partisan, non-profit organization that aims to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life ‒ and its Google Transparency Project. The document concluded that “Google executives and employees bet heavily on a Clinton victory, hoping to extend the company’s influence on the White House.” It added that “had she won the election, Clinton would have been significantly indebted to Google and Schmidt, whom she referred to as her ‘longtime friend.'”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also brought up the relationship between Schmidt and the US establishment in his 2014 book, ‘When Google Met WikiLeaks.’ He describes a 2011 encounter with Schmidt in Norfolk, UK, where Assange was under house arrest at the time.

“I had been too eager to see a politically unambitious Silicon Valley engineer, a relic of the good old days of computer science graduate culture on the West Coast. But that is not the sort of person who attends the Bilderberg conference four years running, who pays regular visits to the White House, or who delivers ‘fireside chats’ at the World Economic Forum in Davos,” Assange wrote. “Schmidt’s emergence as Google’s ‘foreign minister’ – making pomp and ceremony state visits across geopolitical fault lines – had not come out of nowhere; it had been presaged by years of assimilation within US establishment networks of reputation and influence.”

Same thing, different candidate 

Schmidt’s political leanings became clear in the early days of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. He publicly endorsed Obama, telling The Wall Street Journal in October 2008 that he was “doing this personally,” as Google was “officially neutral” in the election. He also served as an informal adviser to Obama’s campaign.

Schmidt also donated $5,000, the maximum allowed by law, to Obama’s 2008 campaign, according to US media reports that cited a now-deleted official list of donors. Schmidt’s close relationship with Obama didn’t end when the Democratic candidate was elected. Schmidt chaired the board of public policy think tank New America Foundation, working closely with Obama as a member of his Transition Economic Advisory Board. Later, Schmidt claimed a seat on Obama’s new Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The two became so close that the Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to the White House demanding that Obama distance himself from Google, and stop inviting Schmidt to fancy galas in Washington, DC. The group pointed out that Schmidt, and then-Google Vice President Marissa Mayer, were invited to a state dinner despite the company being under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice over allegations that it profited from selling online ads to illegal pharmacies.

“Executives of companies under federal criminal investigation should not be invited while a major case is pending. Allowing such executives to hobnob at a gala White House event inevitably sends a message that the Administration supports them and undercuts the ability of federal investigators to proceed with their case in a fair and unbiased way,” reads the letter, dated June 23, 2011.

Schmidt also supported Obama’s 2012 campaign, helping to recruit talent, deciding on technology, as well as mentoring campaign manager, Jim Messina. He was present in the Chicago, Illinois boiler room on election night. The Google executive was apparently so impressed by Obama’s campaign staff that he invested in several start-ups founded by the analysts and engineers who worked on it, one of those being The Groundwork.

Schmidt’s announcement to ‘de-rank’ RT’s articles comes despite Google’s own investigation saying it found no manipulation of its platform or policy violations by RT. There may be more ground to question Schmidt’s integrity than that of RT – but that’s highly unlikely to happen in today’s climate, because Google is not a Russian company.

Read more:

‘Modern censorship: Google decides RT is propaganda, yet millions disagree’

‘Google’s plan to isolate Russian media is an act of information warfare’

Google will ‘de-rank’ RT articles to make them harder to find – Eric Schmidt

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Democrats Used to Love Russian Oligarchs

By Glen Ford | Black Agenda Report | November 15, 2017

The massive leaking of the so-called “Paradise Papers” detailing the myriad ways corporations and individual billionaires hide their money in tax havens around the world, provided news organizations a chance to make the case for reining in global capital. Unlike the 2015 leak of the so-called “Panama Papers ,” which detailed the offshore tax evasions of a sleazier class of capitalists, the “Paradise” disclosures reveal how the world’s public sectors are starved for funding by billionaires and corporations from “the high end of town” — the Lords of Capital that make up the “international oligarchy” whose spreading influence is “the major issue of our time,” in the words of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Nearly 100 news media groups agreed to join with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to expose how the oligarchs avoid their responsibility to share in the cost of civilization, while simultaneously dictating the terms of life for most of the planet’s people. The New York Times is part of this network, but instead of following the money wherever it leads, the paper chose, in the bulk of its own reporting, to make the Paradise Papers an extension of its Russiagate obsession.

To kick off the project, the Times highlighted Twitter and Facebook investments by Yuri Milner , an alleged recipient of “hundreds of millions of dollars in Kremlin funding” who has ties to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner; and dealings by Wilbur Ross , Trump’s commerce secretary whose money is invested in a shipping company “with business ties to a Russian oligarch facing sanctions and [with] President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law.”

The Wilbur Ross story has been at the center of the Times coverage of the Paradise Papers ever since, solidifying the public’s impression that the Russian oligarch connection to the U.S. is mainly a Republican affair — or, more specifically, the result of relatively recent machinations within Donald Trump’s circles. The truth is quite the opposite. It is the Democrats that have been in “collusion” with Russian oligarchs since the birth of that class out of the rubble of the Soviet collapse. And it was during the brief “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations, between 2009 and 2012 under President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that the most recent deals between American and Russian capitalists were consummated.

Donald Trump and his crowd arrived very late on the Russian scene, after relations between Moscow and Washington had been poisoned, and never got a chance to wheel and deal with ruling oligarchic circles — which is why the Trump team’s Russian interlocutors turned out to be so marginal, sleazy and ultimately useless. The party was over when Trump’s people arrived on the Moscow scene; they met with hustlers, self-dealers and wannabes.

Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, on the other hand, took advantage of the “reset” that she and Barack Obama had initiated. In 2015, the New York Times headlined “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal ,” detailing how Clinton’s State Department and other U.S. and Canadian agencies had signed off on a 2012 deal that gave a Russian company control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. During that same period, the chairman of the Russian company kicked in $2.5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and former president Bill Clinton “received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting” the uranium company’s stock, according to the Times.

During the thaw in U.S.-Russian relations Tony Podesta, the lobbyist brother of former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, won the contract to represent the then president of Ukraine, Viktor F. Yanukovych, who would later flee to Russia after U.S.-backed Nazi’s ran him out of office. Podesta is now one of the rare Democratic targets of Robert Mueller’s Russiagate investigation. However, it was logical that a “pro-Russian” politician hire a Democratic lobbyist to represent his interests in Washington under a Democratic president. Indeed, Democratic-identified lobbyists got most of the Russian contracts during the “reset” period, and Democratic businesses had the inside track on whatever deals were available. Had the reset occurred under President George W. Bush, Republican lobbyists and firms would have had the advantage — as is well understood in Washington.

Is it any wonder that Trump turns an even redder shade of orange when he demands an investigation into Clinton’s “Uranium to Russia deal”? The Donald was totally outclassed by a Democratic apparatus with far more experience in navigating the Kremlin.

The Democrats were there at the birth of the Russian mafia-oligarchy, clucking and cooing like godmothers. Bill Clinton and platoons of Wall Street advisors guided the dissolution of the Russian state and redistribution of public assets among the new class of gangster-owners. They openly backed the drunken quisling Boris Yeltsin for president in 1996, and were assured by the nouveau gangster capitalist class of continued subservience to Washington. To this day, the U.S. government (and the New York Times ) treats fallen Russian oligarchs like political prisoners, and exiled mafia as allies, and has installed an oligarch-run regime in Ukraine. They hate Putin because he “tamed” the most unpatriotic elements of Russian oligarchy, and put his country on an independent international path.

The Democrats don’t hate oligarchs. How could they, when the United States is a world-strangling oligarchy, home to six of the planet’s eight wealthiest men, three of whom — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — own more wealth than the bottom half of the entire U.S. population: 160 million people. Russia’s oligarchs are bums compared to the Lords of Capital of the United States.

But Washington does deeply resent the loss of their special relationship with the Russian oligarchy. Putin’s success in domesticating his country’s mafia allowed Russia to reassert its national interests and, in the process, to resist Barack Obama’s (Democratic) global military offensive, centered in Syria, beginning in 2015, and to forge a working partnership with China, which has reclaimed its ancient status as the center of the world economy. These are the events that will shape our world for the rest of this century.

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com

November 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

How Obama and Hillary Clinton Weaponized the ‘Dossier’

By George Szamuely George Szamuely | The Duran | October 31, 2017

The disclosure that the Clinton campaign, using white-shoe law firm Perkins Coie as a cutout, financed the so-called Steele dossier confirms what we have known all along.

The Trump-Russia collusion story was a joint invention of the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign. It enabled the Obama administration to make use of the nation’s security and intelligence services to spy on Trump and his associates and to use whatever information they thereby gleaned to try to get Hillary into the White House. The failure of the scheme didn’t stop either Obama or the Clintons. Following the election debacle, an enraged Obama administration sought vengeance by disseminating the dossier as widely as possible with a view to undermining the incoming Trump administration and to ensuring that no rapprochement with Russia would be possible. In doing so, Obama and Clinton have thrown American politics into turmoil and have perhaps pushed the United States and Russia toward armed confrontation.

We have known the basic outlines of the Steele dossier story since January. The Steele dossier, we have been told, started off as a piece of opposition research prepared by Fusion GPS and financed by a Republican rival of Trump’s or perhaps a GOP NeverTrumper. Following Trump’s victory in the GOP primaries, the Democrats took over its funding. Fusion hired Christopher Steele, a former head of the Russia desk at MI6 who now ran his own corporate intelligence firm, Orbis Business Intelligence. Using the leads Steele had developed during his years at MI6, he reported back to his paymasters his shocking discovery: The Russians had been cultivating Trump for years in preparation for his run for the presidency. So shocked was Steele by this that he rushed to alert the FBI, MI6 and even select reporters.

Most of this story is pure fiction. Neither the GOP nor a primary rival of Trump’s had any involvement with the dossier. To be sure, in October 2015, the Washington Free Beacon, a neo-conservative Web site funded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, did hire Fusion to undertake opposition research on Trump. However, money for this undertaking dried up by May 2016.

The Steele-crafted Trump-Russia collusion story was from start to finish a Democratic Party operation. Its origins can be traced back to April 2016 and the leak of the Democratic National Committee e-mails. The DNC announced that it had been “hacked.” However, instead of reporting the matter to the proper authorities, the DNC turned to attorney Michael Sussmann, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm. Sussmann got in touch with cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike Inc. Now, CrowdStrike is no geeky, techno-gee-whiz firm. Its founder is Russian-born Dmitri Alperovitch, a senior fellow at the NATO-funded, intensely Russophobic Atlantic Council. “Within a day, CrowdStrike confirmed that the intrusion had originated in Russia,” the New York Times wrote. On June 14, CrowdStrike announced that the DNC hack perpetrators were two separate hacker groups employed by the Russian government.

Even though no one other than CrowdStrike had examined the DNC servers, U.S. intelligence agencies immediately declared that they were in agreement and that they had “high confidence” that the “Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents” from the DNC.

It was at this moment that the Clinton people made the strategic decision to tie Trump to Putin and to make the centerpiece of its campaign the idea that a vote for Trump was a vote for the Kremlin. Perkins Coie—yet again—got in touch with Fusion, which, in turn, got in touch with Christopher Steele. Steele had contacts at MI6 and, perhaps more important, contacts at the FBI. He had allegedly worked with the FBI in the takedown of FIFA.

Steele, who had many contacts at the FBI, understood what was required of him. On June 20, six days after CrowdStrike’s announcement, he filed his first report. It was exactly what the Clinton campaign was looking for: lurid, unsubstantiated but nonetheless juicy allegations. Russia had supposedly been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least 5 years.” Trump had hired prostitutes to “perform a ‘golden showers’ show in front of him” at Moscow’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. “Trump’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities… with enough embarrassing material… to be able to blackmail him.”

Steele’s first memo enticed the Clinton people and they eagerly turned on the money spigots. Steele followed up with a memo revealing that the Russians were behind the DNC leak, that Putin “hated and feared” Hillary Clinton and that there existed a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between Trump and the Russians. The recently-indicted Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, managed this co-operation on behalf of Trump by using “foreign policy advisor” Carter Page as an intermediary. “In return the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise U.S./NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine.”

Carter Page, whom no one had ever heard of and who had never even met Trump, featured prominently in the Steele memos and in subsequent U.S. media coverage of the campaign. A July 19 memo from Steele had Page holding a “secret meeting” with Igor Sechin, executive chairman of Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, in which the two men discussed future bilateral energy cooperation and “an associated move to lift Ukraine-related” sanctions against Russia.

The Clinton campaign theme was set. By July 23, 2016, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, was telling ABC News on Sunday that “experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke in to the DNC, took all these emails and now are leaking them out through these Web sites. . . . It’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” A couple of days later, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who was to lead the post-election “Trump-Russia collusion” charge in Congress, declared:

Given Donald Trump’s well-known admiration for Putin and his belittling of NATO, the Russians have both the means and the motive to engage in a hack of the D.N.C. and the dump of its emails prior to the Democratic Convention. That foreign actors may be trying to influence our election—let alone a powerful adversary like Russia—should concern all Americans of any party.

In August, it was reported, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to FBI Director James Comey demanding disclosure of the contents of the dossier: “In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government… The public has a right to know this information.” And, of course, Hillary Clinton famously accused Trump of being “Putin’s puppet” during their third presidential debate.

The Steele dossier was now driving the Obama administration’s scrutiny of Trump’s people as well as media coverage of the campaign. Steele, the BBC reported, “flew to Rome in August to talk to the FBI. Then in early October, he came to the US and was extensively debriefed by them, over a week. He gave the FBI the names of some of his informants, the so-called ‘key’ to the dossier.” The FBI went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court and obtained an order to “monitor the communications” of Carter Page, as “part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign.” According to the Guardian, the FISA court turned down its first application (an unusual event, if true), asking the agency to narrow its focus. Eventually, the FBI managed to convince the court that “there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power.” What was the basis of this probable cause? CNN reported that the FBI based its application on the claims made in the Steele dossier. That’s very serious business. If the FBI was presenting the FISA court unverified material from the dossier as if it were verified then it was clearly deceiving the court in order to obtain a politically-motivated warrant.

By September 2016, U.S. media were reporting that Carter Page had become a person of interests for the U.S. government: “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials—including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president.” Words straight from the dossier. The same media report had “U.S. intelligence agencies” receiving reports that Page met one Igor Diveykin, who “serves as deputy chief for internal policy and is believed by U.S. officials to have responsibility for intelligence collected by Russian agencies about the U.S. election.” This too is almost verbatim from Steele’s July 19 memo.

The U.S. government has actually made very little pretense that it didn’t make use of the dossier. FBI Director James Comey admitted to Congress that the dossier had been “one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation.” Then, on Jan. 11, 2017, following Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s meeting with Trump during which he and Comey presented the president-elect a summary of the dossier, Clapper issued a strange statement: The intelligence community “has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.” This was a classic non-denial denial. That he and his friends did not “rely” on the dossier doesn’t mean that they didn’t make full use of it.

Federal investigators also wiretapped Paul Manafort, both before and after the election and indeed right through to the last days of the Obama administration. According to CNN, the FBI launched an investigation of Manafort in 2014 shortly after the Feb. 22, 2014, coup d’etat in Ukraine. Manafort had worked as a political consultant work for former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. However, the “surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence.” In other words, by the time Manafort went to work for the Trump campaign in May 2016, he was no longer under FBI surveillance. The FBI resumed its surveillance at just about the time the first of Steele’s memos started arriving in Washington.

The wiretaps had nothing to do with the charges Special Counsel Robert Mueller has just brought against Manafort. Mueller’s charges involve activities that took place long before Manafort joined the Trump campaign. What the FBI was looking for was evidence that Manafort was a conduit between the Kremlin and Trump.

Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn also featured prominently in the dossier. He too came under Obama administration surveillance. Indeed, Obama’s people used the wiretaps in order to get him ousted from his newly-appointed position. Obama administration holdover, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, listened in on a conversation Flynn had had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, on Dec. 29, 2016, and decided that the incoming national security adviser was susceptible to blackmail from the Russians. She never really explained on what grounds the Russians could or would blackmail Flynn. Her argument seemed to be that because Flynn had discussed the possible lifting of sanctions—a policy that would run contrary to that of the Obama administration that was still in office at the time this conversation had supposedly taken place—he had violated the Logan Act, which prohibits private individuals conducting U.S. foreign policy. No one has been prosecuted under this statute for 200 years. Why the Russians would want to invoke an obscure statute to threaten Flynn, an official well-disposed toward them, with a prosecution that could never succeed and thereby to undermine the very policy they were seeking, namely, the lifting of sanctions, was never explained. Nonetheless, armed with this nonsense, Yates rushed over to the White House demanding dismissal of Flynn. He was susceptible to blackmail and was therefore a security risk. It seemed to be a joke, but for reasons that remain baffling, the White House meekly complied with Yates’s demand.

We now know that the Obama administration’s surveillance of Trump’s people reached pathological levels following the election. It is almost certain that the FBI did pay Steele to continue his work. The Washington Post reported that the bureau had “reached an agreement with [Steele] a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work.” The Post claims that “Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials.” This seems highly unlikely. According to a number of news stories, the Clinton campaign stopped paying Steele sometime at the end of October. Yet Steele continued sending memos through December. Somebody had to have paid him. Steele is not the type to work pro bono.

Obama people such as Samantha Power, Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes went on an unmasking rampage during the election and after. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has claimed that the Obama administration made “hundreds of requests during the 2016 presidential race to unmask the names of Americans in intelligence reports, including Trump transition officials.” The requests were made without specific justifications on why the information was needed. More sinister were the activities of the Obama people after the election. Trounced by Trump, they vented their fury doing everything possible to undermine the incoming administration. The New York Times reported that during the last days of the Obama administration “White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential… across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.”

A former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration official, Evelyn Farkas, revealed that she was telling her former colleagues:

Get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration, because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior people that left…. That the Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about their, the staff, the Trump staff’s dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would no longer have access to that intelligence. So I became very worried, because not enough was coming out into the open, and I knew that there was more.

The full extent of the Obama administration’s campaign of surveillance, espionage and sabotage has yet to be revealed. The right-wing media have excitedly latched onto the Clinton revelations in order to put out a ridiculous story of their own. Americans are still innocent victims; Russians are still villains interfering with our gloriously pristine elections. The new victim-in-chief is Trump and the new Russian colluder-in-chief is Clinton. As ever, nothing changes in Washington.

George Szamuely, PhD, author of Bombs for Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War on Yugoslavia, is Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute of London Metropolitan University.

November 2, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

How America Spreads Global Chaos

By Nicolas J.S. Davies | Consortium News | October 30, 2017

As the recent PBS documentary on the American War in Vietnam acknowledged, few American officials ever believed that the United States could win the war, neither those advising Johnson as he committed hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, nor those advising Nixon as he escalated a brutal aerial bombardment that had already killed millions of people.

U.S. F-105s bomb North Vietnam in 1966
(Photo credit: U.S. Air Force)

As conversations tape-recorded in the White House reveal, and as other writers have documented, the reasons for wading into the Big Muddy, as Pete Seeger satirized it, and then pushing on regardless, all came down to “credibility”: the domestic political credibility of the politicians involved and America’s international credibility as a military power.

Once the CIA went to work in Vietnam to undermine the 1954 Geneva Accords and the planned reunification of North and South through a free and fair election in 1956, the die was cast. The CIA’s support for the repressive Diem regime and its successors ensured an ever-escalating war, as the South rose in rebellion, supported by the North. No U.S. president could extricate the U.S. from Vietnam without exposing the limits of what U.S. military force could achieve, betraying widely held national myths and the powerful interests that sustained and profited from them.

The critical “lesson of Vietnam” was summed up by Richard Barnet in his 1972 book Roots of War.  “At the very moment that the number one nation has perfected the science of killing,” Barnet wrote, “It has become an impractical means of political domination.”

Losing the war in Vietnam was a heavy blow to the CIA and the U.S. Military Industrial Complex, and it added insult to injury for every American who had lost comrades or loved ones in Vietnam, but it ushered in more than a decade of relative peace for America and the world. If the purpose of the U.S. military is to protect the U.S. from the danger of war, as our leaders so often claim, the “Vietnam syndrome,” or the reluctance to be drawn into new wars, kept the peace and undoubtedly saved countless lives.

Even the senior officer corps of the U.S. military saw it that way, since many of them had survived the horrors of Vietnam as junior officers. The CIA could still wreak havoc in Latin America and elsewhere, but the full destructive force of the U.S. military was not unleashed again until the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the First Gulf War in 1991.

Half a century after Vietnam, we have tragically come full circle. With the CIA’s politicized intelligence running wild in Washington and its covert operations spreading violence and chaos across every continent, President Trump faces the same pressures to maintain his own and his country’s credibility as Johnson and Nixon did. His predictable response has been to escalate ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and West Africa, and to threaten new ones against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

Trump is facing these questions, not just in one country, Vietnam, but in dozens of countries across the world, and the interests perpetuating and fueling this cycle of crisis and war have only become more entrenched over time, as President Eisenhower warned that they would, despite the end of the Cold War and, until now, the lack of any actual military threat to the United States.

Ironically but predictably, the U.S.’s aggressive and illegal war policy has finally provoked a real military threat to the U.S., albeit one that has emerged only in response to U.S. war plans. As I explained in a recent article, North Korea’s discovery in 2016 of a U.S. plan to assassinate its president, Kim Jong Un, and launch a Second Korean War has triggered a crash program to develop long-range ballistic missiles that could give North Korea a viable nuclear deterrent and prevent a U.S. attack. But the North Koreans will not feel safe from attack until their leaders and ours are sure that their missiles can deliver a nuclear strike against the U.S. mainland.

The CIA’s Pretexts for War

U.S. Air Force Colonel Fletcher Prouty was the chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1955 to 1964, managing the global military support system for the CIA in Vietnam and around the world. Fletcher Prouty’s book, The Secret Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, was suppressed when it was first published in 1973. Thousands of copies disappeared from bookstores and libraries, and a mysterious Army Colonel bought the entire shipment of 3,500 copies the publisher sent to Australia. But Prouty’s book was republished in 2011, and it is a timely account of the role of the CIA in U.S. policy.

Prouty surprisingly described the role of the CIA as a response by powerful people and interests to the abolition of the U.S. Department of War and the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947. Once the role of the U.S. military was redefined as one of defense, in line with the United Nations Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force in 1945 and similar moves by other military powers, it would require some kind of crisis or threat to justify using military force in the future, both legally and politically. The main purpose of the CIA, as Prouty saw it, is to create such pretexts for war.

The CIA is a hybrid of an intelligence service that gathers and analyzes foreign intelligence and a clandestine service that conducts covert operations. Both functions are essential to creating pretexts for war, and that is what they have done for 70 years.

Prouty described how the CIA infiltrated the U.S. military, the State Department, the National Security Council and other government institutions, covertly placing its officers in critical positions to ensure that its plans are approved and that it has access to whatever forces, weapons, equipment, ammunition and other resources it needs to carry them out.

Many retired intelligence officers, such as Ray McGovern and the members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), saw the merging of clandestine operations with intelligence analysis in one agency as corrupting the objective analysis they tried to provide to policymakers. They formed VIPS in 2003 in response to the fabrication of politicized intelligence that provided false pretexts for the U.S. to invade and destroy Iraq.

CIA in Syria and Africa

But Fletcher Prouty was even more disturbed by the way that the CIA uses clandestine operations to trigger coups, wars and chaos. The civil and proxy war in Syria is a perfect example of what Prouty meant. In late 2011, after destroying Libya and aiding in the torture-murder of Muammar Gaddafi, the CIA and its allies began flying fighters and weapons from Libya to Turkey and infiltrating them into Syria. Then, working with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Croatia and other allies, this operation poured thousands of tons of weapons across Syria’s borders to ignite and fuel a full-scale civil war.

Once these covert operations were under way, they ran wild until they had unleashed a savage Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra, now rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), spawned the even more savage “Islamic State,” triggered the heaviest and probably the deadliest U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam and drawn Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Hezbollah, Kurdish militias and almost every state or armed group in the Middle East into the chaos of Syria’s civil war.

Meanwhile, as Al Qaeda and Islamic State have expanded their operations across Africa, the U.N. has published a report titled Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment, based on 500 interviews with African militants. This study has found that the kind of special operations and training missions the CIA and AFRICOM are conducting and supporting in Africa are in fact the critical “tipping point” that drives Africans to join militant groups like Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram.

The report found that government action, such as the killing or detention of friends or family, was the “tipping point” that drove 71 percent of African militants interviewed to join armed groups, and that this was a more important factor than religious ideology.

The conclusions of Journey to Extremism in Africa confirm the findings of other similar studies. The Center for Civilians in Conflict interviewed 250 civilians who joined armed groups in Bosnia, Somalia, Gaza and Libya for its 2015 study, The People’s Perspectives: Civilian Involvement in Armed Conflicts. The study found that the most common motivation for civilians to join armed groups was simply to protect themselves or their families.

The role of U.S. “counterterrorism” operations in fueling armed resistance and terrorism, and the absence of any plan to reduce the asymmetric violence unleashed by the “global war on terror,” would be no surprise to Fletcher Prouty. As he explained, such clandestine operations always take on a life of their own that is unrelated, and often counter-productive, to any rational U.S. policy objective.

“The more intimate one becomes with this activity,” Prouty wrote, “The more one begins to realize that such operations are rarely, if ever, initiated from an intent to become involved in pursuit of some national objective in the first place.”

The U.S. justifies the deployment of 6,000 U.S. special forces and military trainers to 53 of the 54 countries in Africa as a response to terrorism. But the U.N.’s Journey to Extremism in Africa study makes it clear that the U.S. militarization of Africa is in fact the “tipping point” that is driving Africans across the continent to join armed resistance groups in the first place.

This is a textbook CIA operation on the same model as Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 60s. The CIA uses U.S. special forces and training missions to launch covert and proxy military operations that drive local populations into armed resistance groups, and then uses the presence of those armed resistance groups to justify ever-escalating U.S. military involvement. This is Vietnam redux on a continental scale.

Taking on China

What seems to really be driving the CIA’s militarization of U.S. policy in Africa is China’s growing influence on the continent. As Steve Bannon put it in an interview with the Economist in August, “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.”

China is already too big and powerful for the U.S. to apply what is known as the Ledeen doctrine named for neoconservative theorist and intelligence operative Michael Ledeen who suggested that every 10 years or so, the United States “pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.”

China is too powerful and armed with nuclear weapons. So, in this case, the CIA’s job would be to spread violence and chaos to disrupt Chinese trade and investment, and to make African governments increasingly dependent on U.S. military aid to fight the militant groups spawned and endlessly regenerated by U.S.-led “counterterrorism” operations.

Neither Ledeen nor Bannon pretend that such policies are designed to build more prosperous or viable societies in the Middle East or Africa, let alone to benefit their people. They both know very well what Richard Barnet already understood 45 years ago, that America’s unprecedented investment in weapons, war and CIA covert operations are only good for one thing: to kill people and destroy infrastructure, reducing cities to rubble, societies to chaos and the desperate survivors to poverty and displacement.

As long as the CIA and the U.S. military keep plunging the scapegoats for our failed policies into economic crisis, violence and chaos, the [elite elements of] United States and the United Kingdom can remain the safe havens of the world’s wealth, islands of privilege and excess amidst the storms they unleash on others.

But if that is the only “significant national objective” driving these policies, it is surely about time for the 99 percent of Americans who reap no benefit from these murderous schemes to stop the CIA and its allies before they completely wreck the already damaged and fragile world in which we all must live, Americans and foreigners alike.

Douglas Valentine has probably studied the CIA in more depth than any other American journalist, beginning with his book on The Phoenix Program in Vietnam. He has written a new book titled The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, in which he brings Fletcher Prouty’s analysis right up to the present day, describing the CIA’s role in our current wars and the many ways it infiltrates, manipulates and controls U.S. policy.

The Three Scapegoats

In Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he named North Korea, Iran and Venezuela as his prime targets for destabilization, economic warfare and, ultimately, the overthrow of their governments, whether by coup d’etat or the mass destruction of their civilian population and infrastructure. But Trump’s choice of scapegoats for America’s failures was obviously not based on a rational reassessment of foreign policy priorities by the new administration. It was only a tired rehashing of the CIA’s unfinished business with two-thirds of Bush’s “axis of evil” and Bush White House official Elliott Abrams’ failed 2002 coup in Caracas, now laced with explicit and illegal threats of aggression.

How Trump and the CIA plan to sacrifice their three scapegoats for America’s failures remains to be seen. This is not 2001, when the world stood silent at the U.S. bombardment and invasion of Afghanistan after September 11th. It is more like 2003, when the U.S. destruction of Iraq split the Atlantic alliance and alienated most of the world. It is certainly not 2011, after Obama’s global charm offensive had rebuilt U.S. alliances and provided cover for French President Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Cameron, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Arab royals to destroy Libya, once ranked by the U.N. as the most developed country in Africa, now mired in intractable chaos.

In 2017, a U.S. attack on any one of Trump’s scapegoats would isolate the United States from many of its allies and undermine its standing in the world in far-reaching ways that might be more permanent and harder to repair than the invasion and destruction of Iraq.

In Venezuela, the CIA and the right-wing opposition are following the same strategy that President Nixon ordered the CIA to inflict on Chile, to “make the economy scream” in preparation for the 1973 coup. But the solid victory of Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party in recent nationwide gubernatorial elections, despite a long and deep economic crisis, reveals little public support for the CIA’s puppets in Venezuela.

The CIA has successfully discredited the Venezuelan government through economic warfare, increasingly violent right-wing street protests and a global propaganda campaign. But the CIA has stupidly hitched its wagon to an extreme right-wing, upper-class opposition that has no credibility with most of the Venezuelan public, who still turn out for the Socialists at the polls. A CIA coup or U.S. military intervention would meet fierce public resistance and damage U.S. relations all over Latin America.

Boxing In North Korea

A U.S. aerial bombardment or “preemptive strike” on North Korea could quickly escalate into a war between the U.S. and China, which has reiterated its commitment to North Korea’s defense if North Korea is attacked. We do not know exactly what was in the U.S. war plan discovered by North Korea, so neither can we know how North Korea and China could respond if the U.S. pressed ahead with it.

Most analysts have long concluded that any U.S. attack on North Korea would be met with a North Korean artillery and missile barrage that would inflict unacceptable civilian casualties on Seoul, a metropolitan area of 26 million people, three times the population of New York City. Seoul is only 35 miles from the frontier with North Korea, placing it within range of a huge array of North Korean weapons. What was already a no-win calculus is now compounded by the possibility that North Korea could respond with nuclear weapons, turning any prospect of a U.S. attack into an even worse nightmare.

U.S. mismanagement of its relations with North Korea should be an object lesson for its relations with Iran, graphically demonstrating the advantages of diplomacy, talks and agreements over threats of war. Under the Agreed Framework signed in 1994, North Korea stopped work on two much larger nuclear reactors than the small experimental one operating at Yongbyong since 1986, which only produces 6 kg of plutonium per year, enough for one nuclear bomb.

The lesson of Bush’s Iraq invasion in 2003 after Saddam Hussein had complied with demands that he destroy Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical weapons and shut down a nascent nuclear program was not lost on North Korea. Not only did the invasion lay waste to large sections of Iraq with hundreds of thousands of dead but Hussein himself was hunted down and condemned to death by hanging.

Still, after North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006, even its small experimental reactor was shut down as a result of the “Six Party Talks” in 2007, all the fuel rods were removed and placed under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the cooling tower of the reactor was demolished in 2008.

But then, as relations deteriorated, North Korea conducted a second nuclear weapon test and again began reprocessing spent fuel rods to recover plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

North Korea has now conducted six nuclear weapons tests. The explosions in the first five tests increased gradually up to 15-25 kilotons, about the yield of the bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but estimates for the yield of the 2017 test range from 110 to 250 kilotons, comparable to a small hydrogen bomb.

The even greater danger in a new war in Korea is that the U.S. could unleash part of its arsenal of 4,000 more powerful weapons (100 to 1,200 kilotons), which could kill millions of people and devastate and poison the region, or even the world, for years to come.

The U.S. willingness to scrap the Agreed Framework in 2003, the breakdown of the Six Party Talks in 2009 and the U.S. refusal to acknowledge that its own military actions and threats create legitimate defense concerns for North Korea have driven the North Koreans into a corner from which they see a credible nuclear deterrent as their only chance to avoid mass destruction.

China has proposed a reasonable framework for diplomacy to address the concerns of both sides, but the U.S. insists on maintaining its propaganda narratives that all the fault lies with North Korea and that it has some kind of “military solution” to the crisis.

This may be the most dangerous idea we have heard from U.S. policymakers since the end of the Cold War, but it is the logical culmination of a systematic normalization of deviant and illegal U.S. war-making that has already cost millions of lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. As historian Gabriel Kolko wrote in Century of War in 1994, “options and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is possible in official circles.”

Demonizing Iran

The idea that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program is seriously contested by the IAEA, which has examined every allegation presented by the CIA and other Western “intelligence” agencies as well as Israel. Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei revealed many details of this wild goose chase in his 2011 memoir, Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.

When the CIA and its partners reluctantly acknowledged the IAEA’s conclusions in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), ElBaradei issued a press release confirming that, “the agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran.”

Since 2007, the IAEA has resolved all its outstanding concerns with Iran. It has verified that dual-use technologies that Iran imported before 2003 were in fact used for other purposes, and it has exposed the mysterious “laptop documents” that appeared to show Iranian plans for a nuclear weapon as forgeries. Gareth Porter thoroughly explored all these questions and allegations and the history of mistrust that fueled them in his 2014 book, Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scares, which I highly recommend.

But, in the parallel Bizarro world of U.S. politics, hopelessly poisoned by the CIA’s endless disinformation campaigns, Hillary Clinton could repeatedly take false credit for disarming Iran during her presidential campaign, and neither Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump nor any corporate media interviewer dared to challenge her claims.

“When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb,” Clinton fantasized in a prominent foreign policy speech on June 2, 2016, claiming that her brutal sanctions policy “brought Iran to the table.”

In fact, as Trita Parsi documented in his 2012 book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran, the Iranians were ready, not just to “come to the table,” but to sign a comprehensive agreement based on a U.S. proposal brokered by Turkey and Brazil in 2010. But, in a classic case of “tail wags dog,” the U.S. then rejected its own proposal because it would have undercut support for tighter sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. In other words, Clinton’s sanctions policy did not “bring Iran to the table”, but prevented the U.S. from coming to the table itself.

As a senior State Department official told Trita Parsi, the real problem with U.S. diplomacy with Iran when Clinton was at the State Department was that the U.S. would not take “Yes” for an answer. Trump’s ham-fisted decertification of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA is right out of Clinton’s playbook, and it demonstrates that the CIA is still determined to use Iran as a scapegoat for America’s failures in the Middle East.

The spurious claim that Iran is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism is another CIA canard reinforced by endless repetition. It is true that Iran supports and supplies weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which are both listed as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. But they are mainly defensive resistance groups that defend Lebanon and Gaza respectively against invasions and attacks by Israel.

Shifting attention away from Al Qaeda, Islamic State, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and other groups that actually commit terrorist crimes around the world might just seem like a case of the CIA “taking its eyes off the ball,” if it wasn’t so transparently timed to frame Iran with new accusations now that the manufactured crisis of the nuclear scare has run its course.

What the Future Holds

Barack Obama’s most consequential international achievement may have been the triumph of symbolism over substance behind which he expanded and escalated the so-called “war on terror,” with a vast expansion of covert operations and proxy wars that eventually triggered the heaviest U.S. aerial bombardments since Vietnam in Iraq and Syria.

Obama’s charm offensive invigorated old and new military alliances with the U.K., France and the Arab monarchies, and he quietly ran up the most expensive military budget of any president since World War Two.

But Obama’s expansion of the “war on terror” under cover of his deceptive global public relations campaign created many more problems than it solved, and Trump and his advisers are woefully ill-equipped to solve any of them. Trump’s expressed desire to place America first and to resist foreign entanglements is hopelessly at odds with his aggressive, bullying approach to every foreign policy problem.

If the U.S. could threaten and fight its way to a resolution of any of its international problems, it would have done so already. That is exactly what it has been trying to do since the 1990s, behind both the swagger and bluster of Bush and Trump and the deceptive charm of Clinton and Obama: a “good cop – bad cop” routine that should no longer fool anyone anywhere.

But as Lyndon Johnson found as he waded deeper and deeper into the Big Muddy in Vietnam, lying to the public about unwinnable wars does not make them any more winnable. It just gets more people killed and makes it harder and harder to ever tell the public the truth.

In unwinnable wars based on lies, the “credibility” problem only gets more complicated, as new lies require new scapegoats and convoluted narratives to explain away graveyards filled by old lies. Obama’s cynical global charm offensive bought the “war on terror” another eight years, but that only allowed the CIA to drag the U.S. into more trouble and spread its chaos to more places around the world.

Meanwhile, Russian President Putin is winning hearts and minds in capitals around the world by calling for a recommitment to the rule of international law, which prohibits the threat or use of military force except in self-defense. Every new U.S. threat or act of aggression will only make Putin’s case more persuasive, not least to important U.S. allies like South Korea, Germany and other members of the European Union, whose complicity in U.S. aggression has until now helped to give it a false veneer of political legitimacy.

Throughout history, serial aggression has nearly always provoked increasingly united opposition, as peace-loving countries and people have reluctantly summoned the courage to stand up to an aggressor. France under Napoleon and Hitler’s Germany also regarded themselves as exceptional, and in their own ways they were. But in the end, their belief in their exceptionalism led them on to defeat and destruction.

Americans had better hope that we are not so exceptional, and that the world will find a diplomatic rather than a military “solution” to its American problem. Our chances of survival would improve a great deal if American officials and politicians would finally start to act like something other than putty in the hands of the CIA.


Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

October 31, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CONFIRMED: US and Saudi coordinated barbaric terrorist attacks on Syria

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | October 25, 2017

The intricate role played by Saudi Arabia and the United States in ushering in a proxy terrorist war on Syria, have been both explicitly and implicitly known, since virtually the beginning of the US instigated proxy conflict in Syria, which was inaugurated in 2011.

In many ways, 2013 represented the nadir of the Syrian conflict. It was a time when it looked as though the combined strength of terrorist groups including ISIS/Daesh, FSA and al-Qaeda might succeed in destroying the secular, tolerant, pluralist Syrian Arab Republic and realise their goal of creating a Takfiri state based on extremist religious supremacist ideology and racism.

With Syria on the verge of a full victory and with Russia confirming that ISIS now controls less than 5% of Syrian territory, 2013 seems like a very distant time in the context of the Syrian conflict.

But on the 18th of March, 2013, large scale coordinated rocket attacks on Damascus International Airport, the Syrian Presidential Palace and other vital security targets in the capital, were conducted by the Takfiri terrorist group FSA.

Today, the exiled American whistleblower who once worked for the notorious NSA, Edward Snowden has released the following short top secret document which plainly details how the US and a powerful member of the Saudi regime, helped to fund and organise the illegal attack on Syria.

The text of the document reads as follows:

“TOP SECRET//S1//NOFORN

(TS//S1//NF) S2E332 issued three single source reports in
March 2013 on Syrian opposition attacks against Damascus:
– Reports gave U.S. three days warning about 18 March 2013
attacks (2 year anniversary of revolution)
– Saudi Prince Salman bin Sultan directed opposition to “light
up Damascus ” and “flatten” airport
– Saudis sent 120 tons of explosives/weapons to opposition
forces
– Attacks against airport, Presidential palace and other locations
occurred on 18 March
– Saudis “very pleased” with outcome
– PRISM providing almost all collection on opposition plans
and operations

TOP SECRET//S1//NOFORN”.

The collusion between Saudi and the US in a deadly terrorist attack constitutes nothing less than a war crime.

Because of the patently biased nature of the International Criminal Court, it is unlikely that anyone from the US or Saudi will be prosecuted for this war crime.

However, Snowden’s document does help to explain Syria’s unity in the face of a campaign of foreign state sponsored organised terrorism. Contrary to what many al-Qaeda apologists say, the Syrian conflict was a proxy war from day one. Of course, foreign powers used the promise of enhanced material status to woo a small number of disgruntled locals, but the main sources of terrorist fighters and virtually all of the funding and arms came from abroad.

While Syria faced onslaughts funded and directed by some of the wealthiest and most powerful states in the world including, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Turkey, UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and others, Syria managed to retain her sovereignty, even prior to Russia’s game-changing legal intervention in 2015.

The anti-Syrian alliance did its utmost to destroy one of the last truly revolutionary Arab Republics in the world. The fact that of all their efforts ultimately failed, is a testament both to the resolve of the Syrian Arab Republic and to the powerful anti-terrorist alliance that Damascus built throughout the conflict, one which has been capable of resisting imperialist obscurantist aggression from the west and its Middle East proxies and allies.

October 25, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 6 Comments

Why North Korea Wants Nuke Deterrence

By Nicolas J S Davies | Consortium News | October 12, 2017

The Western media has been awash in speculation as to why, about a year ago, North Korea’s “crazy” leadership suddenly launched a crash program to vastly improve its ballistic missile capabilities. That question has now been answered.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In September 2016, North Korean cyber-defense forces hacked into South Korean military computers and downloaded 235 gigabytes of documents. The BBC has revealed that the documents included detailed U.S. plans to assassinate North Korea’s president, Kim Jong Un, and launch an all-out war on North Korea. The BBC’s main source for this story is Rhee Cheol-Hee, a member of the Defense Committee of the South Korean National Assembly.

These plans for aggressive war have actually been long in the making. In 2003, the U.S. scrapped an agreement signed in 1994 under which North Korea suspended its nuclear program and the U.S. agreed to build two light water reactors in North Korea. The two countries also agreed to a step-by-step normalization of relations. Even after the U.S. scrapped the 1994 Agreed Framework in 2003, North Korea did not restart work on the two reactors frozen under that agreement, which could by now be producing enough plutonium to make several nuclear weapons every year.

However, since 2002-03, when President George W. Bush included North Korea in his “axis of evil,” withdrew from the Agreed Framework, and launched an invasion of Iraq over bogus WMD claims, North Korea once again began enriching uranium and making steady progress toward developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them.

By 2016, the North Koreans also were keenly aware of the horrific fate of Iraq and Libya and their leaders after the countries did surrender their unconventional weapons. Not only did the U.S. lead bloody “regime change” invasions but the nations’ leaders were brutally murdered, Saddam Hussein by hanging and Muammar Gaddafi sodomized with a knife and then summarily shot in the head.

So, the discovery of the U.S. war plan in 2016 sounded alarm bells in Pyongyang and triggered an unprecedented crash program to quickly expand North Korea’s ballistic missile program. Its nuclear weapons tests established that it can produce a small number of first-generation nuclear weapons, but it needed a viable delivery system before it could be sure that its nuclear deterrent would be credible enough to deter a U.S. attack.

In other words, North Korea’s main goal has been to close the gap between its existing delivery systems and the missile technology it would need to actually launch a retaliatory nuclear strike against the United States. North Korea’s leaders see this as their only chance to escape the same kind of mass destruction visited on North Korea in the first Korean War, when U.S.-led air forces destroyed every city, town and industrial area and General Curtis LeMay boasted that the attacks had killed 20 percent of the population.

Through 2015 and early 2016, North Korea only tested one new missile, the Pukkuksong-1 submarine-launched missile. The missile launched from a submerged submarine and flew 300 miles on its final, successful test, which coincided with the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises in August 2016.

North Korea also launched its largest satellite to date in February 2016, but the launch vehicle seemed to be the same type as the Unha-3 used to launch a smaller satellite in 2012.

However, since the discovery of the U.S.-South Korean war plans a year ago, North Korea has vastly accelerated its missile development program, conducting at least 27 more tests of a wide range of new missiles and bringing it much closer to a credible nuclear deterrent. Here is a timeline of the tests:

–Two failed tests of Hwasong-10 medium-range ballistic missiles in October 2016.

–Two successful tests of Pukguksong-2 medium-range ballistic missiles, in February and May 2017. The missiles followed identical trajectories, rising to a height of 340 miles and landing in the sea 300 miles away. South Korean analysts believe this missile’s full range is at least 2,000 miles, and North Korea said the tests confirmed it is ready for mass production.

–Four medium-range ballistic missiles that flew an average of 620 miles from the Tongchang-ri space center in March 2017.

–Two apparently failed missile tests from Sinpo submarine base in April 2017.

–Six tests of Hwasong-12 medium-range ballistic missiles (range: 2,300 to 3,700 miles) since April 2017.

–A failed test of a missile believed to be a “KN-17” from Pukchang airbase in April 2017.

–Test of a Scud-type anti-ship missile that flew 300 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan, and two other tests in May 2017.

–Several cruise missiles fired from the East coast in June 2017.

–A test of a powerful new rocket engine, maybe for an ICBM, in June 2017.

–North Korea tested two Hwasong-14 “near-ICBMs” in July 2017. Based on these tests, the Hwasong-14 may be capable of hitting city-sized targets in Alaska or Hawaii with a single nuclear warhead, but cannot yet reach the U.S. West Coast.

–Four more missiles tested in August 2017, including a Hwasong-12 that flew over Japan and travelled 1,700 miles before breaking up, maybe as a result of a failure in a “Post Boost Vehicle” added to improve range and accuracy.

–Another ballistic missile flew 2,300 miles over the Pacific on September 15, 2017.

An analysis of the two tests of the Hwasong-14 in July by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) concluded that these missiles are not yet capable of carrying a 500 kg payload as far as Seattle or other U.S. West Coast cities. BAS notes that a first generation nuclear weapon based on the Pakistani model that North Korea is believed to be following could not weigh less than 500 kg, once the weight of the warhead casing and a heat shield to survive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere are taken into account.

Global Reaction

Awareness of the role of the U.S. war plan in spurring the dramatic escalation of North Korea’s missile program should be a game changer in the world’s response to the crisis over Korea, since it demonstrates that the current acceleration of the North Korean missile program is a defensive response to a serious and potentially existential threat from the United States.

If the United Nations Security Council was not diplomatically and militarily intimidated by the United States, this knowledge should trigger urgent action in the Security Council to require all sides to make a firm commitment to peaceful and binding diplomacy to formally end the Korean War and remove the threat of war from all the people of Korea. And the whole world would unite politically and diplomatically to prevent the U.S. from using its veto to avoid accountability for its leading role in this crisis. Only a unified global response to potential U.S. aggression could possibly convince North Korea that it would have some protection if it eventually halted its nuclear weapons program.

But such unity in the face of a threat of U.S. aggression would be unprecedented. Most U.N. delegates quietly sat and listened on Sept. 19 when President Donald Trump delivered explicit threats of war and aggression against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, while boasting about his missile strike against Syria on April 6 over dubious and disputed claims about a chemical weapons incident.

For the past 20 years or more, the United States has swaggered about as the “last remaining superpower” and the “indispensable nation,” a global law unto itself, using the dangers of terrorism and weapons proliferation and highly selective outrage over “dictators” as propaganda narratives to justify illegal wars, CIA-backed terrorism, its own weapons proliferation, and support for its favored dictators like the brutal rulers of Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies.

For even longer, the United States has been two-faced about international law, citing it when some adversary can be accused of a violation but ignoring it when the U.S. or its allies are trampling on the rights of some disfavored country. When the International Court of Justice convicted the United States of aggression (including acts of terrorism) against Nicaragua in 1986, the U.S. withdrew from the ICJ’s binding jurisdiction.

July 1950 U.S. Army file photograph once classified “top secret”. S. Korean soldiers walk among thousands of political prisoners shot at Taejon, S. Korea.
(AP Photo/National Archives, Major Abbott/U.S. Army, File)

Since then, the U.S. has thumbed its nose at the entire structure of international law, confident in the political power of its propaganda or “information warfare” to cast itself as the guardian of law and order in the world, even as it systematically violates the most basic rules spelled out in the U.N. Charter and the Geneva Conventions.

U.S. propaganda treats the U.N. Charter and the Geneva Conventions, the world’s “Never again” to war, torture and the killing of millions of civilians in the Second World War, as relics of another time that it would be naive to take seriously.

But the results of the U.S. alternative — its lawless “might makes right” war policy — are now plain for all to see. In the past 16 years, America’s post-9/11 wars have already killed at least two million people, maybe many more, with no end in sight to the slaughter as the U.S.’s policy of illegal war keeps plunging country after country into intractable violence and chaos.

An Ally’s Fears

Just as North Korea’s missile programs are a rational defense strategy in the face of the threat Pyongyang faces from the U.S., the exposure of the U.S.’s war plan by American allies in South Korea is also a rational act of self-preservation, since they too are threatened by the possibility of war on the Korean peninsula.

Now maybe other U.S. allies, the wealthy countries that have provided political and diplomatic cover for the U.S.’s 20-year campaign of illegal war, will finally reassert their humanity, their sovereignty and their own obligations under international law, and start to rethink their roles as junior partners in U.S. aggression.

Countries like the U.K., France and Australia will sooner or later have to choose between forward-looking roles in a sustainable, peaceful multi-polar world and a slavish loyalty to the ever-more desperate death throes of U.S. hegemony. Now might be a good moment to make that choice, before they are dragged into new U.S. wars in Korea, Iran or Venezuela.

Even Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is afraid that Donald Trump will lead humanity into World War III. But it might come as a surprise to people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and parts of a dozen other countries already engulfed by U.S.-driven wars to learn that they are not already in the midst of World War III.

Perhaps what really worries the Senator is that he and his colleagues may no longer be able to sweep these endless atrocities under the plush carpets of the halls of Congress without a genteel Barack Obama in the White House to sweet-talk U.S. allies around the world and keep the millions being killed in U.S. wars off U.S. TVs and computer screens, out of sight and out of mind.

If politicians in the U.S. and around the world need the ugliness of Donald Trump as a mirror for their own greed, ignorance and temerity, to shame them into changing their ways, so be it – whatever it takes. But it should not escape anyone anywhere that the signature on this diabolical war plan that now threatens to kill millions of Koreans was not Donald Trump’s but Barack Obama’s.

George Orwell might well have been describing the partisan blindness of the West’s self-satisfied, so easily deluded, neoliberal society when he wrote this in 1945,

“Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage – torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians – which does not change its color when it is committed by our side… The Nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

Here’s the bottom line: The United States has been planning to assassinate Kim Jong Un and to launch an all-out war on North Korea. There. You’ve heard it. Now, can you still be manipulated into believing that Kim Jong Un is simply “crazy” and North Korea is the gravest threat to world peace?

Or do you now understand that the United States is the real threat to peace in Korea, just as it was in Iraq, Libya and many other countries where the leaders were deemed “crazy” and U.S. officials (and the Western mainstream media) promoted war as the only “rational” alternative?


Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

October 12, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

What Did Washington Achieve in its Six Year War on Syria?

By Ron Paul | October 2, 2017

Now that the defeat of ISIS in Syria appears imminent, with the Syrian army clearing out some of the last ISIS strongholds in the east, Washington’s interventionists are searching for new excuses to maintain the illegal US military presence in the country. Their original rationale for intervention has long been exposed as another lie.

Remember that President Obama initially involved the US military in Iraq and Syria to “prevent genocide” of the Yazidis and promised the operation would not drift into US “boots on the ground.” That was three years ago and the US military became steadily more involved while Congress continued to dodge its Constitutional obligations. The US even built military bases in Syria despite having no permission to do so! Imagine if Syria started building military bases here in the US against our wishes.

After six years of war the Syrian government has nearly defeated ISIS and al-Qaeda and the US-backed “moderates” turned out to be either Islamist extremists or Kurdish soldiers for hire. According to a recent report, the US has shipped two billion dollars worth of weapons to fighters in Syria via eastern Europe. Much of these weapons ended up in the hands of ISIS directly, or indirectly through “moderates” taking their weapons with them while joining ISIS or al-Qaeda.

“Assad must go,” proclaimed President Obama back in 2011, as he claimed that the Syrian leader was committing genocide against his own people and that regime change was the only way to save Syrians. Then earlier this year, when eastern Aleppo was about to be liberated by the Syrian government, the neocons warned that Assad would move in and kill all the inhabitants. They warned that the population of eastern Aleppo would flee from the Syrian army. But something very different happened. According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration, 600,000 refugees returned to Syria by August. Half of the returnees went back to Aleppo, where we were told Assad was waiting to kill them.

What happened? The neocons and “humanitarian interventionists” lied. Just as they lied about Libya, Iraq, and so on.

While it was mostly ignored by the mainstream media, just this week a Christian was elected speaker of the Syrian parliament. The new speaker is a 58-year-old Orthodox Christian law graduate and member of President Assad’s Baath party.

How many Christians does our “ally” Saudi Arabia have in its parliament? Oh I forgot, Saudi Arabia has no elected parliament.

Why does it seem that US policy in the Middle East always hurts Christians the most? In Iraq, Christians suffered disproportionately from the 2003 US invasion. In fact there are hardly any Christians left. Why aren’t more US Christian groups demanding that the US get out of the Middle East?

The US is not about to leave on its own. With ISIS all but defeated in Syria, many in Washington are calling for the US military to continue its illegal occupation of parts of the country to protect against Iranian influence! Of course before the US military actions in Iraq and Syria there was far less Iranian influence in the region! So US foreign interventionism is producing new problems that can only be solved by more US interventionism? The military industrial complex could not have dreamed of a better scheme to rob the American people while enriching themselves!

What have we achieved in Syria? Nothing good.

October 2, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

Washington Post Pushes More Dubious Russia-bashing

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 25, 2017

Some people are calling the anti-Russian hysteria being whipped up across the U.S. mainstream news media a new “golden age of American journalism,” although it looks to me more like a new age of yellow journalism, prepping the people for more military spending, more “information warfare” and more actual war.

Yes, without doubt, President Trump is a boorish and dangerous demagogue, now highlighted by his reckless speech before the United Nations last week, his schoolyard Tweet taunts toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and his ugly denunciation of black athletes for protesting against police killings of often unarmed African-Americans.

And, yes, I know that some people feel that the evidence-lite and/or false allegations about “Russian meddling” are the golden ticket to Trump’s impeachment. But the unprofessional behavior of The New York Times, The Washington Post and pretty much the entire mainstream media regarding Russia-gate cannot be properly justified by the goal of removing Trump from office.

Ethically in journalism, the ends – however much you might wish them to succeed – cannot justify the means, if those means involve violating rules of evidence and principles of fairness. Journalism should be a place where all sides get a fair shake, not where some get a bum’s rush.

But the U.S. mainstream media has clearly joined the anti-Trump Resistance and hates Russian President Vladimir Putin, too. So, we are given such travesties of journalism as appeared as a banner headline across the front page of Monday’s Washington Post, another screed about how Russia supposedly used Facebook ads to flip last November’s election for Trump.

The article purports to give the inside story of how Facebook belatedly came to grips with how the “company’s social network played a key role in the U.S. election,” but actually it is a story about how powerful politicians bullied Facebook into coming up with something – anything – to support the narrative of “Russian meddling,” including direct interventions by President Obama and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a key legislator regarding regulation of high-tech industries.

Finding the ‘Evidence’

In other words, Facebook was sent back again and again to find what Obama and Warner wanted the social media company to find. Eventually, Facebook turned up $100,000 in ads from 2015 into 2017 that supposedly were traced somehow to Russia. These ads apparently addressed political issues in America although Facebook has said most did not pertain directly to the presidential election and some ads were purchased after the election.

Left out of the Post’s latest opus is what a very small pebble these ads were – even assuming that Russians did toss the $100,000 or so in ad buys into the very large lake of billions of dollars in U.S. political spending for the 2016 election cycle. It also amounts to a miniscule fraction of Facebook’s $27 billion in annual revenue.

So the assertion that this alleged “meddling” – and we’ve yet to see any evidence connecting these ads to the Russian government – “played a key role in the U.S. election” is both silly and outrageous, especially given the risks involved in stoking animosities between nuclear-armed Russia and nuclear-armed America.

Even the Post’s alarmist article briefly acknowledges that it is still unclear who bought the ads, referring to the purchasers as “suspected Russian operatives.” In other words, we don’t even know that the $100,000 in ads over three years came from Russians seeking to influence the U.S. election. (By comparison, many Facebook advertisers – even some small businesses – spend $100,000 per day on their ads, not $100,000 over three years.)

But this diminutive effort by “suspected Russian operatives” doesn’t stop the Post from going on and on about “fake news” and “disinformation,” albeit again without offering evidence or specifics of any Russian “fake news” or “disinformation.”

It has simply become Official Washington’s new groupthink to say that everything linked to Russia or its international TV network RT is “fake news” or “disinformation” even though examples are lacking or often turn out to be false accusations themselves.

For instance, there is nothing in the Post’s article acknowledging that nothing from the various Democratic email disclosures, which have been blamed on Russia (again without real evidence), has been identified as untrue. So, how can truthful information, whether you like how it was obtained or not, be “fake news” or “disinformation”?

Falsehood as Fact

But Monday’s Post exposé simply asserts the claim as flat fact. Or as the article asserts: “what Russian operatives posted on Facebook was, for the most part, indistinguishable from legitimate political speech. The difference was the accounts that were set up to spread the misinformation and hate were illegitimate.”

In responsible journalism, such an accusation would be followed by a for-instance, giving an example of “the misinformation and hate” that the “Russian operatives” – note how they have been magically transformed from “suspected Russian operatives” to simply “Russian operatives” – were disseminating.

But there is no example of the Russian “misinformation and hate,” a classic violation of the reporting principle of “show, don’t tell.” In this story, it’s all tell and no show.

Indeed, what is shown in the article is often contradictory to the story’s conclusion. The article says, for instance, “A review by the company found that most of the groups behind the problematic pages had clear financial motives, which suggested that they weren’t working for a foreign government. But amid the mass of data the company was analyzing, the security team did not find clear evidence of Russian disinformation or ad purchases by Russian-linked accounts.”

So, Facebook initially – after extensive searching – did not find evidence of a Russian operation. Then, after continued pressure from high-level Democrats, Facebook continued to scour its system and again found nothing, or as the Post article acknowledged, Facebook “had searched extensively for evidence of foreign purchases of political advertising but had come up short.”

That prompted Warner to fly out to Silicon Valley to personally press Facebook executives to come up with the evidence to support the Democrats’ theory about Russia paying for carefully targeted anti-Clinton ads in key districts.

The Post’s article reported that “Finally, [Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex] Stamos appealed to Warner for help: If U.S. intelligence agencies had any information about the Russian operation or the troll farms it used to disseminate misinformation, they should share it with Facebook. The company is still waiting, people involved in the matter said.”

Under Pressure

Still, faced with extraordinary pressure from senior Democrats, Facebook finally delivered the desired results, or as the Post reported, “By early August, Facebook had identified more than 3,000 ads addressing social and political issues that ran in the United States between 2015 and 2017 and that appear to have come from accounts associated with the [St. Petersburg, Russia-based] Internet Research Agency.”

So, the ads covering three years, including post-election 2017, only “appear” to be “associated” with some private Russian operation that only allegedly has ties to the Kremlin. And the total sums of the ad buys are infinitesimal compared to what it actually takes to have any real impact on Facebook or in a U.S. presidential election.

If the context of this story were changed slightly – say, it was about the U.S. government trying to influence public opinion in another country (which actually does happen quite a bit) – the Post would be among the first news outlets to laugh off such allegations or dismiss the vague accusations as a conspiracy theory, but since these allegations fit with the prejudices of the Post’s editors, an entirely different set of journalistic standards is applied.

What the article also ignores is the extraordinary degree of coercion that such high-level political pressure can put on a company that recognizes its vulnerability to government regulation.

As Facebook has acknowledged in corporate filings, “Action by governments to restrict access to Facebook in their countries could substantially harm our business and financial results. It is possible that governments of one or more countries may seek to censor content available on Facebook in their country, restrict access to Facebook from their country entirely, or impose other restrictions that may affect the accessibility of Facebook in their country for an extended period of time or indefinitely. …

“In the event that access to Facebook is restricted, in whole or in part, in one or more countries or our competitors are able to successfully penetrate geographic markets that we cannot access, our ability to retain or increase our user base and user engagement may be adversely affected, we may not be able to maintain or grow our revenue as anticipated, and our financial results could be adversely affected.”

Avoiding Reality

In other words, another way to have framed this story is that powerful politicians who could severely harm Facebook’s business model were getting in the face of Facebook executives and essentially demanding that they come up with something to support the Democratic Party’s theory of “Russian meddling.”

The Democratic leaders wanted this finding as an explanation for Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat, rather than going through the painful process of examining why the party has steadily lost ground in white working-class areas across the country.

What is missed in these Russia-bashing articles is that the Democratic brand has been sinking for years, including massive losses in statehouses across the country as well as in Congress. The party’s decline was not a one-off event with Donald Trump suddenly snaking away with significant parts of the white working class because the Russians bought some Facebook ads.

However, instead of looking in the mirror, national Democrats demanded that Facebook executives ferret out whatever tiny or imaginary information there might be about some Russians buying Facebook ads – and then allow those coerced findings to be fed into the excuse industry for why Hillary Clinton lost.

And, what about the Post’s repeated accusations about Russia engaging in “disinformation” and “fake news” without offering a single example? Apparently, these assertions have become such articles of faith in the U.S. mainstream media that they don’t require any proof.

However, honest journalism demands examples and evidence, not just vague accusations. The reality is that the U.S. government has stumbled again and again when seeking to paint RT as a disinformation outlet or a vehicle for undermining American democracy.

For instance, the Jan. 6 report on alleged Russian “cyber operations,” released by Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, included a lengthy appendix, dated from 2012, which decried RT for such offenses as allowing a debate among third-party presidential candidates who had been excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates; covering the Occupy Wall Street protests; and citing the environmental dangers from “fracking.”

The idea that American democracy is threatened by allowing third-party candidates or other American dissidents to have a voice is at best an upside-down understanding of democracy and, more likely, an exercise in hypocritical propaganda.

False Accusations

Another misfired attempt to discredit RT came from Obama’s Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel, who issued a “Dipnote” in April 2014, which helped establish the narrative of RT as a source of Russian disinformation.

For instance, Stengel claimed that RT reported a “ludicrous assertion” that the United States had spent $5 billion to produce Ukraine’s “regime change” in February 2014.

But what Stengel, a former managing editor of Time magazine, apparently failed to understand was that RT was referring to a public speech by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013, in which she told them that “we have invested more than $5 billion” in what was needed for Ukraine to achieve its “European aspirations.” In other words, the RT report wasn’t “ludicrous” at all.

Nuland also was a leading proponent of “regime change” in Ukraine who personally cheered on the Maidan demonstrators, even passing out cookies. In an intercepted pre-coup phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland discussed who should run the new government and pondered with Pyatt how to “glue” or “midwife this thing.”

So, Stengel was the one disseminating false information, not RT.

Similarly, senior U.S. politicians, including Hillary Clinton, and the U.S. mainstream media have falsely asserted that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies signed off on the Russia-did-it hacking claims.

For months, that canard was used to silence skepticism. After all, how could you question something that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed to be true?

But it turned out that – as DNI Clapper, himself a hardline Russia-basher, belatedly acknowledged – the Jan. 6 report on the alleged Russian hacking was the work of “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies, the CIA, FBI and NSA, and the “assessment” itself admitted that it was not asserting the Russian conclusion as fact, only the analysts’ opinion.

The New York Times finally retracted its use of the fake claim about “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” in late June 2017 although it wouldn’t let the lie lie, so instead the Times made misleading references to a “consensus” among U.S. intelligence agencies without using the number.

Recent studies by former U.S. intelligence experts have punched more holes in the certainty by raising doubts that the email downloads could have been accomplished over the Internet at the recorded speeds and more likely were achieved by an insider downloading onto a thumb drive.

Deciding What’s Real

So who is guilty of “fake news” and “disinformation”?

One positive from the current PBS series, “The Vietnam War,” is that despite its bend-over-backwards attempts to make excuses for the “good faith” decisions by U.S. politicians, no one can watch the series without encountering the chasm between the upbeat Official Story being peddled by the U.S. government and the ghastly on-the-ground reality.

Yet, given how little accountability was meted out then for journalists who served as conveyor belts for pro-war propaganda in Vietnam – or more recently over the fraudulent reporting that rationalized the U.S. aggressive war against Iraq – it is perhaps not surprising that similar false group thinks would coalesce around Russia now.

Careerist journalists understand that there is no danger in running with the pack – indeed, there is safety in numbers – but there are extraordinary risks to your career if you challenge the conventional wisdom even if you turn out to be right. As one establishment journalist once told me, “there’s no honor in being right too soon.”

So, for the Post reporters responsible for the latest journalistic violation of standards – Adam Entous, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg – there will be no penalty for the offense of telling about Russia’s alleged “disinformation” and “fake news” – rather than showing, i.e., providing actual examples. When it comes to Russia these days – as with the Vietcong in the 1960s or Iraq in 2002-03 – you can pretty much write whatever you want. All journalistic standards are gone.

Yet, what is perhaps most insidious about what we are seeing is that – in the name of defending democracy – the U.S. mainstream media is trampling a chief principle of the Enlightenment, the belief that the marketplace of ideas is the best way to determine the truth and to create an informed populace.

The new U.S. mainstream media paradigm is that only establishment-approved views can be expressed; everything else must be suppressed, purged and punished.

For instance, if you question the State Department’s narrative on alleged Syrian government sarin attacks – by noting contrary evidence that points to staged incidents by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate – you are called an “apologist” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

If you question the one-sided State Department narrative regarding the Ukraine coup in 2014 – indeed even if you use the word “coup” – you are denounced as a “Kremlin stooge.”

No ‘Other’ Side

It is now not okay to even consider the other side of these stories, just as it was anathema to suggest that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government may have been telling the truth in 2002-03 when it declared repeatedly that it had destroyed its WMDs. That made you a “Saddam apologist.”

The hostility toward Americans who dare question the current anti-Russian hysteria was highlighted by an article last Thanksgiving Day by one of the authors of the new Post article, Craig Timberg.

In another front-page Post story, Timberg allowed an anonymous group called PropOrNot to malign the professionalism and patriotism of 200 Web sites, including our own Consortiumnews, that were lumped together in a McCarthyistic smear that they were somehow guilty of disseminating “Russian propaganda.”

The unnamed accusers – granted anonymity by the Post – acknowledged that they had no evidence that the sites were part of some grand Russian conspiracy but made the judgment based on PropOrNot’s analysis of the Web sites’ content.

In other words, if you questioned the State Department’s narratives on Ukraine or Syria – regardless of how well-supported those critiques were – you got smeared as a “Russian propagandist” – and the Post, which didn’t even bother to contact the accused, considered that sort of analysis to be worthy of its front page.

The story fed into another frenzy about the need to use algorithms and artificial intelligence to hunt down and suppress or purge such dissenting views from the Internet, supposedly to protect the sanctity of American democracy and spare Americans from exposure to “fake news.”

So, well-meaning Americans who may hope that Russia-gate will somehow bring down Trump are getting recruited into a movement that intends to silence dissent and allow the U.S. establishment to dictate what information you will get to see and hear.

And that officially approved “information” will surely lead to new global tensions, more military spending. and additional warfare up to and possibly including nuclear war with Russia.

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

September 25, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments