President Barack Obama used a pseudonym when communicating with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by email, while her IT company referred to her email deleting as a “cover-up”, new FBI documents reveal.
The heavily-redacted documents, almost 200 pages, include summaries of interviews with senior Clinton aides concerning the private email server, and brings to light details previously unknown.
During the interview with Huma Abedin, who served as deputy chief of staff under Clinton, the FBI reportedly presented her with an email exchange between Clinton and a person she did not recognize. The FBI then revealed the unknown person’s name was believed to be a pseudonym used by Obama. Abedin reacted by saying, “How is this not classified?”
This exchange could expose Obama as having mislead the public on the issue, given his 2015 statement that he found out about Clinton’s use of a private email server “the same time everybody else learned it, through news reports.”
The State Department will not make public the emails Clinton exchanged with Obama, citing “presidential communications privilege,” as reason to withhold the emails under the Freedom of Information Act, Politico reports.
The documents also include interview notes with other senior Clinton aides; Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan and former Bill Clinton advisor Justin Cooper, who registered the clintonemail.com domain. Romanian hacker Guccifer and a number of state department officials were also interviewed.
The latest FBI document cache also refers to the engineer who used BleachBit to permanently delete emails from Clinton’s server soon after the House Benghazi Committee issued a subpoena for documents relating to the 2012 attack on the US embassy in Libya. According to the engineer, he did this “of his own accord based on his normal practices as an engineer.”
Documents show employees from Platte River Networks, the IT company who managed Clinton’s emails, referring to a request to wipe emails in 2014 as the “Hilary [sic] cover-up operation”. An employee told the FBI this was a joke.
Clinton aide, Bryan Pagliano, said concerns were raised about whether Clinton’s server created a “federal records retention issue” by state department officials in 2009 or 2010. When he communicated these concerns to Mills, however, she said that Clinton’s predecessor, Colin Powell, had also used private email.
The reports further reveal Clinton’s alleged ineptitude with technology, with aides claiming she “could not use a computer,” and didn’t know her email password.
Abedin said she had two computers in her State Department office, one for unclassified communications and another for classified communications. She did most of her work on the unclassified computer and would go “days or weeks without logging into the classified system.”
One redacted interviewee described himself as a “Clintonista” and said he has a relationship with the Clintons dating back years. He said he would meet with Clinton four or five times a day and initially traveled with her until she was comfortable with the position of secretary of state.
The unnamed interviewee said he only became aware of the server after receiving an email from the address, which he thought was spam. He described Clinton as a “paper person” who preferred using paper over electronic communications.
Clinton’s spokesperson, Brian Fallon, responded to the new revelations by saying the interviews “further demonstrate why the Justice Department believed there was no basis to move forward with this case.”
He also criticized the timing of the release, three days before the first debate, in a tweet. Others also questioned the timing , but for a different reason.
The Trump camp said through advisor Jason Miller, the reference to a cover-up “suggests there was a concerted effort to systematically destroy potentially incriminating information.”
The folks who make their living by hyping the supposed threat of runaway global warming use a lot of scary language in the process. Here the ever creative New York Times has set what may be a new standard in scary climate change hype, by tying it to the Zika outbreak.
In our Framework Analysis of Federal Funding-induced Biases we point to the press exaggerating unproven scientific hypotheses that support government policies. Policies that depend on scaring people are especially subject to this kind of press bias. The NYT has provided a fine example of this sort of scientific distortion, one that is worth analyzing to see just how the game is played. Not surprisingly, they do this in what they call a “Science” article.
It begins with this ever so scary headline:
Zika itself is pretty scary, so that sets the stage. They then combine this with “epidemic” and “a Warning on Climate Change.” So instead of unsubstantiated possibilities we now have warnings and threats. This is a rhetorical flourish that we have not seen before, especially warnings.
Note that most people will only read this headline, which contains no science whatsoever. They will be told, falsely, that the Zika outbreak is a warning of a supposed climate change threat.
Beyond the scary headline, the article itself is a study in rhetorical structure. It begins with innuendo and ends with standard speculation, but in between it manages to provide some solid science regarding several mosquito borne diseases. The latter is to the effect that these various disease outbreaks and increases are likely due to increased urbanization. You would never guess this from the headline or the first paragraph, which uses a question to make an accusation, a classic form of innuendo:
“The global public health emergency involving deformed babies emerged in 2015, the hottest year in the historical record, with an outbreak in Brazil of a disease transmitted by heat-loving mosquitoes. Can that be a coincidence?”
The answer turns out to be probably, but it takes a lot of reading to realize this. Even worse, the article simply assumes that there will be extensive future warming, all due to human emissions. None of this is known to be true, or even likely. In fact this is a standard rhetorical set piece. Assume great human-induced global warming and prophesy the worst.
Not surprisingly the key prophesying quotation comes from an activist-scientist at the National Science Foundation-funded Nation Center for Atmospheric Research. NSF is the Obama Administration’s leading proponent of the unconfirmed hypothesis that human emissions are creating dangerous global warming. NCAR has even issued a Zika forecast for 50 US cities, based as usual on an unverified computer model.
We also get a juicy quote from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which assumes that a warmer and wetter world lies ahead. What happened to those pesky droughts?
They even throw in a picture of a sick baby and a Brazilian with dengue (not Zika). In our view tying this hyperbolic “climate change threat” rhetoric to the real misery created by Zika and related diseases is simply despicable.
Putin Derangement Syndrome is the imperialist gift that keeps on giving. It was created in the American war party laboratory because Vladimir Putin made it clear he would not be the next target for regime change. That logic of self-preservation is problematic when dealing with the United States. The act of protecting a nation’s sovereign rights has placed many a world leader in America’s cross hairs.
Of course Putin fought back when the American-allied government of Georgia attacked the South Ossetia region in 2008. When the United States overthrew the Ukrainian president in 2014 Putin reacted by annexing Crimea, where a Russian naval base was in need of protection from United States and NATO adventurism.
Putin has been a useful foil ever since and the corporate media happily carry Barack Obama’s water whenever he wants to evoke the bogeyman image in pursuit of his ulterior motives. Putin has been accused of murdering a London based Russian exile who was in fact targeted by oligarchs, shooting down an airliner over Ukraine even though there is no proof of Russian involvement and now scheming to rig the upcoming presidential election.
It would all be amusing if it weren’t so dangerous. Only the reviled Donald Trump asked a simple and reasonable question about United States/Russian relations: Why must the two countries be enemies? A much needed reconsideration of foreign policy orthodoxy has gone unaddressed because facts don’t suit the imperialist cause beloved by both sides of the duopoly.
Now the full court press of Putin-bashing is serving another purpose: assuring victory for Hillary Clinton. Her surrogates are eagerly using Russophobia to demonize Putin and Trump, lest voters take a look at her dismal record and dubious activities. When emails from the Democratic National Committee proved that party’s allegiance to Hillary’s candidacy and not the needs of the of rank and file, Putin was accused of hacking. Suddenly, words like “Russian digital fingerprints” appeared in the media and were readily accepted as being valid. The New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC and their cohorts went into overdrive mode, making sure that the substance of the revelations was ignored. They repeated the fable of a Romanian hacker who suddenly became Russian and not just any Russian but one in Putin’s employ.
Julian Assange and Wikileaks have also been targeted in order to protect the Clinton candidacy from unknown shoes dropping. Only Russia benefits when western secrets are revealed, at least according to hyperventilation from the New York Times. Joy Ann Reid at MSNBC is so eager to please that she forgets the Soviet Union collapsed 25 years ago and ranted endlessly on twitter about “communist Russia.” Even the National Geographic channel has strayed from nature photography to present an hour long anti-Putin screed.
The press hysteria gives credence to every official lie. Despite the double talk of “isolating Putin” the Obama administration is in fact talking to Russian government representatives on a regular basis. The high school clique at the G8 group of nations may have kicked Russia out of their cool kids clubhouse, but Putin and Obama always end up talking when they are in the same place. The world is fortunate to have at least one leader who does his job despite being constantly insulted by an erratic and violent country. In a sane nation the fact of Putin’s relevance would silence foolish posturing.
The risks of American obstruction and pursuit of hegemony are already evident. It was bad enough that the United States killed Syrian soldiers as part of that ongoing regime change effort. Obama’s United Nations ambassador Samantha Power then went into full attack mode which made America’s culpability obvious. She offended her Russian counterpart, calling his demand for a Security Council meeting a stunt. She shrieked that Russia was to blame for its ally being the victim of American aggression. Without a hint of irony the New York Times then complained that the Russians and Syrians used the incident for propaganda purposes.
Despite nonsense about the media “normalizing” Donald Trump, it is the awful Barack Obama and his even worse would be successor who are being given a pass. Endless war has been normalized. Revival of the cold war has been normalized. The corporate media behaving like an arm of the government is normalized. Vladimir Putin is being used to normalize imperialism and to get Hillary in the oval office. Two birds dead with one stone.
The real loser is democracy, or rather what is left of it. Hillary’s campaign and its big tent of the ruling elites exposes the true nature of American politics. The Russians aren’t even in the same league.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
Does the failure of the U.S.-backed, major insurgent August “push” on Aleppo – and the terms of the consequent ceasefire, to which some in the U.S. only irascibly agreed – constitute a political defeat for the U.S. and a “win” for Russia?
Yes, in one way: Moscow may, (just may) have cornered America into joint military air attacks on Al Qaeda in Syria, but in another way, one would have to be somewhat cautious in suggesting a Russian “win” (although Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s diplomacy has been indeed tenacious).
Secretary of State John Kerry’s Syria agreement with Lavrov though, has sparked virtual open warfare in Washington. The “Cold War Bloc,” which includes Defense Secretary Ash Carter and House Speaker Paul Ryan, is extremely angry.
The Defense Department is in near open disobedience: when asked in a press teleconference if the military would abide by the terms of the agreement and share information with the Russians after the completion of the seven-day ceasefire, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the commander of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, which is directing the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, responded: “I think … it would be premature to say we’re going to jump right into it. And I’m not saying yes or no.”
But President Obama wants to define some sort of a foreign policy historical “legacy” (and so does Kerry). And the President probably suspects (with good cause possibly) that his legacy is set to be trashed by his successor, whomsoever it be – the minute he steps down from office.
In brief, the Establishment’s dirty washing is hanging on the line in plain sight. And it does not look great: Ash Carter, whose Department would have to work jointly with Russia in Syria, last week at Oxford University, accused Russia of having a “clear ambition” to degrade the world order with its military and cyber campaigns.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called Russian President Vladimir Putin an “adversary” and an “aggressor” who does not share U.S. interests. There is a U.S. media blitz in train, with powerful forces behind it, which paints Putin as no possible partner for the U.S.
Only in the coming days will we see whether Obama still has the will and clout to make the Syria ceasefire agreement stick. But the agreement did not appear out of the blue. One parent was the failure of America’s military “Plan B” (itself a response to the failed February ceasefire), and the other “parent” was Kerry’s wringing of a further concession from Damascus: Obama supposedly agreed to the separation of U.S. insurgent proxies from Al Qaeda (the former Nusra Front now called Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), and to their joint targeting, in return “for the what the Obama administration characterized as the ‘grounding’ of the Syrian air force in the current agreement,” as Gareth Porter has reported.
The U.S. and its Gulf allies – in pursuit of Plan B – had invested enormous effort to break Damascus’ operation to relieve Aleppo from the jihadists’ hold in the northeastern part of the city. The two sides, here (Russia and U.S.), were playing for high stakes: the U.S. wanted its Islamist proxies to take Aleppo, and then to use its seizure by the jihadis as political leverage with which to force Russia and Iran to concede President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster. Plan B, in other words, was still all about “regime change.”
Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, has from the outset of this conflict been strategically pivotal – its loss would have pulled the rug from under the Syrian government’s guiding objective of keeping the mass of the urban population of Syria within the state’s orbit.
America’s long-standing objective thus would have been achieved – albeit at an indescribable price paid by the inhabitants of western Aleppo, who would have been overrun by the forces of Al Qaeda. Thus, the Syrian government’s recovery of all Aleppo is a major strategic gain.
In the end, however, the U.S. and its Gulf allies did not succeed: their much vaunted Plan B failed. And in failing, the insurgents have sustained heavy loss of life and equipment. Indeed, such are the losses, it is doubtful whether a “push” on this scale could again be mounted by Qatar or Saudi Arabia (despite the post-Aleppo “push” in Hama) .
In spite of the failure of Plan B, the U.S. was not ready to see Al Qaeda isolated and attacked. It wanted it protected. The U.S. ambiguity towards the jihadists of being “at war with the terrorists”; but always maneuvering to stop Syria and Russia from weakening the jihadists was plain in the letter sent by the U.S. envoy to the Syrian opposition Michael Ratney to opposition groups backed by the United States.
The first letter, sent on Sept. 3, after most of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement had already been hammered out, “makes no reference to any requirement for the armed opposition to move away from their Al Qaeda allies, or even terminate their military relationships, and thus implied that they need not do so,” Porter wrote.
A second letter however, apparently sent on Sept. 10, reverses the message: “We urge the rebels to distance themselves and cut all ties with Fateh al-Sham, formerly Nusra Front, or there will be severe consequences.”
Will it happen? Will the agreement be observed? Well, the Syrian conflict is but one leg of the trifecta that constitutes the “new” Cold War theatre: there is the delicate and unstable situation in Ukraine (another leg), and elsewhere NATO is busy building its forces on the borders of the Baltic Republics (the third leg). Any one of these pillars can be wobbled (intentionally) – and crash the delicate political framework of all the others.
Which brings us to the complex question of the current demonization of Russia by the Cold War Bloc (which includes Hillary Clinton) in the U.S. presidential election campaign.
Gregory R. Copley, editor of Defense & Foreign Affairs has described the situation as one in which the U.S. Establishment is deliberately and intentionally “sacrificing key bilateral relationships in order to win [a] domestic election,” adding “in my 50 odd years covering the US government, I have never seen this level of partisanship within the administration where a sitting president actually regards the opposition party as the enemy of the state.”
In short, the stakes being played here – in demonizing Russia and Putin – go well beyond Syria or Ukraine. They lie at the heart of the struggle for the future of the U.S.
There is practical evidence for such caution – for, three days before the Syrian artillery was scything the ranks of Ahrar al-Sham near Aleppo on Sept. 9 to close the chapter on America’s Plan B – (and four days before Ratney’s letter to the Syrian insurgents telling them to separate from Al Qaeda “or else”), Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in addressing the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada in Kiev, was eviscerating the Minsk II accords, brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande as the only possible political solution to the Ukrainian civil war.
“Moreover, in a difficult dialogue,” Poroshenko said (see here and here), “we have convinced our western allies and partners that any political settlement must be preceded by apparent and undeniable progress on security issues: a sustainable ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops and equipment from the occupied territories, disarmament of militants and their family – and finally the restoration of our control over our own border” (emphasis added.)
Poroshenko, in other words, unilaterally turned the accord on its head: he reversed its order completely. And just to skewer it further, he told Parliament that any decision would be “exclusively yours” and nothing would be done “without your co-operation” – knowing full well that this Ukrainian parliament never wanted Minsk II in the first place.
And Kiev too is deploying along the entire borders of Donetsk and Lugansk. (A description of the military escalation by Kiev can be seen visually presented here).
Is Poroshenko’s U-turn the American “revenge” for Russia’s “win” in Syria – to heat up Ukraine, in order to drown President Putin in the Ukraine marshes? We do not know.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has boasted: “I think I tend to be in more direct conversation, for longer periods of time with the President [Poroshenko], than with my wife. (Laughter.) I think they both regret that (Laughter).”
Is it possible that Biden was not consulted before Poroshenko made his annual address to the Rada? We do not know, although within 48 hours of Poroshenko’s making his Rada address, Defense Secretary Ash Carter was in London, recommitting to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as he signed a “bilateral partner concept” with the Ukrainian defense minister.
What we do know however, is that this is – and is intended to be – a direct provocation to Russia. And to France and Germany, too. Within a week, however, Poroshenko was backtracking as “coincidentally” a new IMF loan was being floated for Kiev, just as the German and French Foreign ministers insisted on the Minsk formula of “truce – special status – elections in Donbass – control of the border” be respected – and as the Donetsk and Lugansk leadership unexpectedly offered a unilateral ceasefire.
But Poroshenko’s “backtrack” was itself “backtracked” by Sept. 16, when the French and German visiting Foreign Ministers were reportedly told that Ukraine’s government now refused to implement the Minsk accord as it stood, as it now insists that the order be fully reversed: “truce – control of the border – elections.”
The American bitter internal election “civil war” is now shaking the pillars of the tripod on which America’s – and Europe’s – bilateral relations with Russia stand. It would therefore seem a stretch now for Obama to hope to prevail with any “legacy strategy” either in the Middle East or Ukraine that is contingent on cooperation with Russia.
The U.S. Establishment seems to have come to see the very preservation of the global status quo as linked to their ability to paint Trump as President Putin’s instrument for undermining the entire U.S. electoral system and the U.S.-led global order.
To the world outside, it seems as if the U.S. is seized by a collective hysteria (whether genuine, or manufactured for political ends). And it is not clear where the U.S. President now stands in this anti-Russian hysteria having likened Putin to Saddam Hussein, and having accused the Republican nominee of trying to “curry favor” with the Russian president – for having appeared on “Larry King Live” which is now broadcast by Russia Today.
But the bigger question is the longer-term consequence of all this: some in the “Hillary Bloc” still hanker for “regime change” in Moscow, apparently convinced that Putin’s humiliation in either Syria (not so likely now), or in Ukraine, could see him deposed in the March 2018 Russian Presidential elections, for a more Atlanticist, more “acceptable” leader.
It is unadulterated wishful thinking to imagine that Putin could be displaced thus – and more likely, Ukraine (with its prolific ‘kith and kin’ ties to Russians) used as a lever to “humiliate” President Putin will prove counter-productive, serving only to harden antagonism towards the U.S., as ethnic Russians die at the hands of rightist Ukrainian “militia.”
But it is certainly so that this campaign is strengthening the hand of those in Russia who would like to see President Putin taking a less “conciliatory line” towards the West. So, we may be heading towards more troubled waters.
Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum, which advocates for engagement between political Islam and the West.
After several years of arming and supporting Syrian rebel groups that often collaborated with Al Qaeda’s Nusra terror affiliate, the United States launched an illegal invasion of Syria two years ago with airstrikes supposedly aimed at Al Qaeda’s Islamic State spin-off, but on Saturday that air war killed scores of Syrian soldiers and aided an Islamic State victory.
Yet, the major American news outlets treat this extraordinary set of circumstances as barely newsworthy, operating with an imperial hubris that holds any U.S. invasion or subversion of another country as simply, ho-hum, the way things are supposed to work.
On Monday, The Washington Post dismissed the devastating airstrike at Deir al-Zour killing at least 62 Syrian soldiers as one of several “mishaps” that had occurred over the past week and jeopardized a limited ceasefire, arranged between Russia and the Obama administration.
But the fact that the U.S. and several allies have been routinely violating Syrian sovereign airspace to carry out attacks was not even an issue, nor is it a scandal that the U.S. military and CIA have been arming and training Syrian rebels. In the world of Official Washington, the United States has the right to intervene anywhere, anytime, for whatever reason it chooses.
President Barack Obama has even publicly talked about authorizing military strikes in seven different countries, including Syria, and yet he is deemed “weak” for not invading more countries, at least more decisively.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has vowed to engage in a larger invasion of Syria, albeit wrapping the aggression in pretty words like “safe zone” and “no-fly zone,” but it would mean bombing and killing more Syrian soldiers.
As Secretary of State, Clinton used similar language to justify invading Libya and implementing a “regime change” that killed the nation’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and unleashed five years of violent political chaos.
If you were living in a truly democratic country with a truly professional news media, you would think that this evolution of the United States into a rogue superpower violating pretty much every international law and treaty of the post-World War II era would be a regular topic of debate and criticism.
Those crimes include horrendous acts against people, such as torture and other violations of the Geneva Conventions, as well as acts of aggression, which the Nuremberg Tribunals deemed “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Justifying ‘Regime Change’
Yet, instead of insisting on accountability for American leaders who have committed these crimes, the mainstream U.S. news media spreads pro-war propaganda against any nation or leader that refuses to bend to America’s imperial demands. In other words, the U.S. news media creates the rationalizations and arranges the public acquiescence for U.S. invasions and subversions of other countries.
In particular, The New York Times now reeks of propaganda, especially aimed at two of the current targets, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin. With all pretenses of professionalism cast aside, the Times has descended into the status of a crude propaganda organ.
On Sunday, the Times described Assad’s visit to a town recently regained from the rebels this way: “Assad Smiles as Syria Burns, His Grip and Impunity Secure.” That was the headline. The article began:
“On the day after his 51st birthday, Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, took a victory lap through the dusty streets of a destroyed and empty rebel town that his forces had starved into submission.
“Smiling, with his shirt open at the collar, he led officials in dark suits past deserted shops and bombed-out buildings before telling a reporter that — despite a cease-fire announced by the United States and Russia — he was committed ‘to taking back all areas from the terrorists.’ When he says terrorists, he means all who oppose him.”
The story by Ben Hubbard continues in that vein, although oddly the accompanying photograph doesn’t show Assad smiling but rather assessing the scene with a rather grim visage.
But let’s unpack the propaganda elements of this front-page story, which is clearly intended to paint Assad as a sadistic monster, rather than a leader fighting a foreign-funded-and-armed rebel movement that includes radical jihadists, including powerful groups linked to Al Qaeda and others forces operating under the banner of the brutal Islamic State.
The reader is supposed to recoil at Assad who “smiles as Syria burns” and who is rejoicing over his “impunity.” Then, there’s the apparent suggestion that his trip to Daraya was part of his birthday celebration so he could take “a victory lap” while “smiling, with his shirt open at the collar,” although why his collar is relevant is hard to understand. Next, there is the argumentative claim that when Assad refers to “terrorists” that “he means all who oppose him.”
As much as the U.S. news media likes to pride itself on its “objectivity,” it is hard to see how this article meets any such standard, especially when the Times takes a far different posture when explaining, excusing or ignoring U.S. forces slaughtering countless civilians in multiple countries for decades and at a rapid clip over the past 15 years. If anyone operates with “impunity,” it has been the leadership of the U.S. government.
On Sunday, the Times also asserted as flat fact the dubious charge against Assad that he has “hit civilians with gas attacks” when the most notorious case – the sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013 – appears now to have been carried out by rebels trying to trick the United States into intervening more directly on their side.
A recent United Nations report blaming Syrian forces for two later attacks involving chlorine was based on slim evidence and produced under great political pressure to reach that conclusion – while ignoring the absence of any logical reason for the Syrian forces to have used such an ineffective weapon and brushing aside testimony about rebels staging other gas attacks.
More often than not, U.N. officials bend to the will of the American superpower, failing to challenge any of the U.S.-sponsored invasions over recent decades, including something as blatantly illegal as the Iraq War. After all, for an aspiring U.N. bureaucrat, it’s clear which side his career bread is buttered.
We find ourselves in a world in which propaganda has come to dominate the foreign policy debates and – despite the belated admissions of lies used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Libya – the U.S. media insists on labeling anyone who questions the latest round of propaganda as a “fill-in-the-blank apologist.”
So, Americans who want to maintain their mainstream status shy away from contesting what the U.S. government and its complicit media assert, despite their proven track record of deceit. This is not just a case of being fooled once; it is being fooled over and over with a seemingly endless willingness to accept dubious assertion after dubious assertion.
In the same Sunday edition which carried the creepy portrayal about Assad, the Times’ Neil MacFarquhar pre-disparaged Russia’s parliamentary elections because the Russian people were showing little support for the Times’ beloved “liberals,” the political descendants of the Russians who collaborated with the U.S.-driven “shock therapy” of the 1990s, a policy that impoverished a vast number of Russians and drastically reduced life expectancy.
Why those Russian “liberals” have such limited support from the populace is a dark mystery to the mainstream U.S. news media, which also can’t figure out why Putin is popular for significantly reversing the “shock therapy” policies and restoring Russian life expectancy to its previous levels. No, it can’t be that Putin delivered for the Russian people; the only answer must be Putin’s “totalitarianism.”
The New York Times and Washington Post have been particularly outraged over Russia’s crackdown on “grassroots” organizations that are funded by the U.S. government or by billionaire financial speculator George Soros, who has publicly urged the overthrow of Putin. So has Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which funnels U.S. government cash to political and media operations abroad.
The Post has decried a Russian legal requirement that political entities taking money from foreign sources must register as “foreign agents” and complains that such a designation discredits these organizations. What the Post doesn’t tell its readers is that the Russian law is modeled after the American “Foreign Agent Registration Act,” which likewise requires people trying to influence policy in favor of a foreign sponsor to register with the Justice Department.
Nor do the Times and Post acknowledge the long history of the U.S. government funding foreign groups, either overtly or covertly, to destabilize targeted regimes. These U.S.-financed groups often do act as “fifth columnists” spreading propaganda designed to undermine the credibility of the leaders, whether that’s Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 or Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
That’s not to say that these targeted leaders were or are perfect. They are often far from it. But the essence of propaganda is to apply selective outrage and exaggeration to the leader that is marked for removal. Similar treatment does not apply to U.S.-favored leaders.
The pattern of the Times and Post is also to engage in ridicule when someone in a targeted country actually perceives what is going on. The correct perception is then dismissed as some sort of paranoid conspiracy theory.
Take, for example, the Times’ MacFarquhar describing a pamphlet and speeches from Nikolai Merkushkin, the governor of Russian region of Samara, that MacFarquhar says “cast the blame for Russia’s economic woes not on economic mismanagement or Western sanctions after the annexation of Crimea but on a plot by President Obama and the C.I.A. to undermine Russia.”
The Times article continues: “Opposition candidates are a fifth column on the payroll of the State Department and part of the scheme, the pamphlet said, along with the collapse in oil prices and the emergence of the Islamic State. Mr. Putin is on the case, not least by rebuilding the military, the pamphlet said, noting that ‘our country forces others to take it seriously and this is something that American politicians don’t like very much.’”
Yet, despite the Times’ mocking tone, the pamphlet’s perceptions are largely accurate. There can be little doubt that the U.S. government through funding of anti-Putin groups inside Russia and organizing punishing sanctions against Russia, is trying to make the Russian economy scream, destabilize the Russian government and encourage a “regime change” in Moscow.
Further, President Obama has personally bristled at Russia’s attempts to reassert itself as an important world player, demeaning the former Cold War superpower as only a “regional power.” The U.S. government has even tread on that “regional” status by helping to orchestrate the 2014 putsch that overthrew Ukraine’s elected President Yanukovych on Russia’s border.
After quickly calling the coup regime “legitimate,” the U.S. government supported attempts to crush resistance in the south and east which were Yanukovych’s political strongholds. Crimea’s overwhelming decision to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia was deemed by The New York Times a Russian “invasion” although the Russian troops that helped protect Crimea’s referendum were already inside Crimea as part of the Sevastopol basing agreement.
The U.S.-backed Kiev regime’s attempt to annihilate resistance from ethnic Russians in the east – through what was called an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” that has slaughtered thousands of eastern Ukrainians – also had American backing. Russian assistance to these rebels is described in the mainstream U.S. media as Russian “aggression.”
Oddly, U.S. news outlets find nothing objectionable about the U.S. government launching military strikes in countries halfway around the world, including the recent massacre of scores of Syrian soldiers, but are outraged that Russia provided military help to ethnic Russians being faced with annihilation on Russia’s border.
Because of the Ukraine crisis, Hillary Clinton likened Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler.
Seeing No Coup
For its part, The New York Times concluded that there had been no coup in Ukraine – by ignoring the evidence that there was one, including an intercepted pre-coup telephone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should be made the new leaders of Ukraine.
The evidence of a coup was so clear that George Friedman, founder of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, said in an interview that the overthrow of Yanukovych “really was the most blatant coup in history.” But the Times put protecting the legitimacy of the post-coup regime ahead of its journalistic responsibilities to its readers, as it has done repeatedly regarding Ukraine.
Another stunning case of double standards has been the mainstream U.S. media’s apoplexy about alleged Russian hacking into emails of prominent Americans and then making them public. These blame-Russia articles have failed to present any solid evidence that the Russians were responsible and also fail to note that the United States leads the world in using electronic means to vacuum up personal secrets about foreign leaders as well as average citizens.
In a number of cases, these secrets appear to have been used to blackmail foreign leaders to get them to comply with U.S. demands, such as the case in 2002-03 of the George W. Bush administration spying on diplomats on the U.N. Security Council to coerce their votes on authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a ploy that failed.
U.S. intelligence also tapped the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose cooperation on Ukraine and other issues of the New Cold War is important to Washington. And then there’s the massive collection of data about virtually everybody on the planet, including U.S. citizens, over the past 15 years during the “war on terror.”
Earlier this year, the mainstream U.S. news media congratulated itself over its use of hacked private business data from a Panama-based law firm, material that was said to implicate Putin in some shady business dealings even though his name never showed up in the documents. No one in the mainstream media protested that leak or questioned who did the hacking.
Such mainstream media bias is pervasive. In the case of Sunday’s Russian elections, the Times seems determined to maintain the fiction that the Russian people don’t really support Putin, despite consistent opinion polls showing him with some 80 percent approval.
In the Times’ version of reality, Putin’s popularity must be some kind of trick, a case of totalitarian repression of the Russian people, which would be fixed if only the U.S.-backed “liberals” were allowed to keep getting money from NED and Soros without having to divulge where the funds were coming from.
The fact that Russians, like Americans, will rally around their national leader when they perceive the country to be under assault – think, George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks – is another reality that the Times can’t tolerate. No, the explanation must be mind control.
The troubling reality is that the Times, Post and other leading American news outlets have glibly applied one set of standards on “enemies” and another on the U.S. government. The Times may charge that Bashar al-Assad has “impunity” for his abuses, but what about the multitude of U.S. leaders – and, yes, journalists – who have their hands covered in the blood of Iraqis, Libyans, Afghans, Yemenis, Syrians, Somalis and other nationalities. Where is their accountability?
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Review of Paolo Sensini’s book, Sowing Chaos: Libya in the Wake of Humanitarian Intervention
It is rare for a historian to write a history of a significant issue and bring it into the present time; even rarer when the work coincides with the reemergence of that issue on the world stage. Paolo Sensini has done just that with Sowing Chaos: Libya in the Wake of Humanitarian Intervention (Clarity Press, 2016). It is a revelatory historical analysis of the exploitation and invasion of Libya by colonial and imperialistic powers for more than a century.
It is also timely since the western powers, led by the United States, have once again invaded Libya (2011), overthrown its government, and are in the process (2016) of creating further chaos and destruction by bombing the country for the benefit of western elites under the pretext of humanitarian concern.
As with the history of many countries off the radar of western consciousness, Libyan history is a tragic tale of what happens when a country dares assert its right to independence – it is destroyed by violent attack, financial subterfuge, or both.
Although an Italian and Italy has a long history of exploiting Libya, a close neighbor, Sensini stands with the victims of colonial and imperial savagery. Not an armchair historian, he traveled to Libya during the 2011 war to see for himself what was true. Despite his moral stand against western aggression, his historical accuracy is unerring and his sourcing impeccable. For 234 pages of text, he provides 481 endnotes, including such fine sources as Peter Dale Scott, Patrick Cockburn, Michel Chossudovsky, Pepe Escobar, and Robert Parry, to name but a few better known names.
His account begins with Italy’s 1911 war against Libya that “Francesco Saverio Nitti charmingly described …. as the taking of a ‘sandbox’.” The war was accompanied by a popular song, “Tripoli, bel suol d’amore” (Tripoli, beauteous land of love). Even in those days war and love were synonymous in the eyes of aggressors.
This war went on until 1932 when the Sanusis’s resistance was finally crushed by Mussolini. First Italy conquered the Ottoman Turks, who controlled western Libya (Tripolitania); then the Sanusis, a Sunni Islamic mystical militant brotherhood, who controlled eastern Libya (Cyrenaica). This Italian war of imperial aggression lasted 19 years, and, as Sensini writes, “was hardly noticed in Italy.”
I cannot help but think of the U.S. wars against Afghanistan and Iraq that are in their 15th and 13th years respectively, and counting; they are not making a ripple on the placid indifference of the American people.
Sensini presents this history clearly and succinctly. Most of the book is devoted to the period following the 1968 overthrow of King Idris by the Free Unionist Officers, led by the 27 year old captain Mu’ammar Gaddafi. This bloodless coup d’état by military officers, who had all risen from the poorer classes, was called “Operation Jerusalem” to honor the Palestinian liberation movement. The new government, The Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), had “three key themes …. ‘freedom, socialism, and unity,’ to which we can add the struggle against western influences within the Arab world, and, in particular, the struggle against Israel (whose very existence was, according to Gaddafi, a confirmation of colonialization and subjugation).”
Sensini explains the Libyan government under Gaddafi, including his world theory that was encapsulated in his “Green Book” and the birth of what was called “Jamahiriyya” (State of the Masses). Gaddafi called Libya the “Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya.”
Under Gaddafi there was dialogue between Christians and Muslims, including the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, and visits from Eastern Orthodox and Anglican religious leaders. Fundamentalist Islamic groups criticized Gaddafi as a heretic for these moves. Gaddafi described Islamists as “reactionaries in the name of Islam.” His animus toward Israel remained, however, due to the Palestinian issue. He promoted women’s rights, and in 1996 Libya “was the first country to issue an international arrest warrant with Osama bin Laden’s name on it.”
He had a lot of enemies: Israel, Islamists, al Qaeda, the western imperial countries, etc. But he had friends as well, especially among the developing countries.
A large portion of the book concerns the U.S./NATO 2011 attack on Libya and its aftermath. This attack was justified and sanctioned by UN Resolutions 1970 (2/26/11) and 1973 (3/17/11). These resolutions were prepared by the work of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) that in 2000-2001 produced a justification for powerful nations to intervene in the internal affairs of any nation they chose. Termed the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), it justified the illegal and immoral “humanitarian” attack on Libya in 2011. The ICISS, based in NYC, was founded by, among others, the Carnegie Corporation, the Simons, Rockefeller, William and Flora Hewitt, and John D. and Catherine MacArthur foundations, elite moneyed institutions devoted to American interventions throughout the world.
When the US/NATO attacked Libya, they did so despite the illegality of the intervention (an Orwellian term) under the UN Resolutions that prohibit arming of ‘rebels’ who do not represent the legal government of a country. On March 30, 2011 the Washington Post, a staunch supporter of US aggression, reported an anonymous government source as saying that “President Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorize the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.” None of the mainstream media, including the Washington Post, noted the hypocrisy of reporting illegal activities as if they were legal. The law had become irrelevant.
The Obama administration had become the opposite of the Kennedy administration. Whereas JFK, together with Dag Hammarskjold the assassinated U.N. Secretary General, had used the UN to defend the growing third world independence movements throughout the world, Obama has chosen to use the UN to justify his wars of aggression against them. Libya is a prime example.
Sensini shows in great detail which groups were armed, where they operated, and who they represented. The US/NATO forces armed and supported all sorts of Islamist terrorists, including the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), led by Abu al-Laith al Libby, a close Afghan associate of Osama bin Laden, and al Qaeda’s third in command.
“These fanatical criminals (acclaimed as liberators by the mainstream media worldwide) were to form Libya’s emerging ruling class. These were people tasked to ensure a democratic future for Libya. However, the ‘rebel’ council of Benghazi did what it does best – ensuring chaos for the country as a whole, under a phantom government and a system of local fiefdoms (each with a warlord or tribal chief). This appears to be the desired outcome all along, and not just in Libya.”
Sensini is especially strong in his critical analysis of the behavior of the corporate mass media worldwide in propagandizing public opinion for war. Outright lies – “aligning its actions with Goebbels’ famous principle of perception management” and the Big Lie (thanks to Edward Bernays, the American father of Public Relations) – were told by Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and repeated by the western media, about Gaddafi allegedly slaughtering and raping thousands of Libyans. Sensini argues persuasively that Libya was a game-changer in this regard.
Here, the mass media played the part of a military vanguard. The cart, as it were, had been put before the horse. Rather than obediently repackaging and relaying the news that had been spoon fed to them by military commanders and Secretaries of State, the media were called upon actually to provide legitimation for armed actors. The media’s function was military. The material aggression on the ground and in the sky was paralleled and anticipated by virtual and symbolic aggression. Worldwide, we have witnessed the affirmation of a Soviet approach to information, enhanced to the nth degree. It effectively produces a ‘deafening silence’ – an information deficit. The trade unions, the parties of the left and the ‘love-thy-neighbor’ pacifists did not rise to this challenge and demonstrate against the rape of Libya.
The US/NATO attack on Libya, involving tens of thousands of bombing raids and cruise missile, killed thousands of innocent civilians. This was, as usual, explained away as unfortunate “collateral damage,” when it was admitted at all. The media did their part to downplay it. Sensini rightly claims that the U.S./NATO and the UN are basically uninterested in the question of the human toll. “The most widely cited press report on the effects of the NATO sorties and missile attacks on the civilian population is most surely that of The New York Times. In ‘Strikes on Libya by NATO, an Unspoken Civilian Toll’, conveniently published after NATO’s direct intervention had ceased. The article is truly a fine example of ‘embeddedness’:”
While the overwhelming preponderance of strikes seemed to hit their targets without killing noncombatants, many factors contributed to a run of fatal mistakes. These included a technically faulty bomb, poor or dated intelligence and the near absence of experience military personnel on the ground who could direct air strikes. The alliances apparent presumption that residences thought to harbor pro Gaddafi forces were not occupied by civilians repeatedly proved mistaken, the evidence suggests, posing a reminder to advocates of air power that no war is cost or error free.
The use of words like “seemed” and “apparent,” together with the oft used technical excuse and the ex post facto reminder are classic stratagems of the New York Times’ misuse of the English language for propaganda purposes.
Justifying the killing, President Obama “explained the entire campaign away with a lie. Gaddafi, he said, was planning a massacre of his own people.”
Hillary Clinton, who was then Secretary of State, was aware from the start, as an FOIA document reveals, that the rebel militias the U.S. was arming and backing were summarily executing anyone they captured: “The State Department and Obama were fully aware that the U.S.-backed ‘rebel’ forces had no such regard for the lives of the innocent.”
Clinton also knew that France’s involvement was because of the threat Gaddafi’s single African currency plan posed to French financial interests in Francophone Africa. Her joyous ejaculation about Gaddafi’s brutal death – “We came, we saw, he died” – sick in human terms, was no doubt also an expression of relief that the interests of western elites, her backers, had been served.
It is true that Gaddafi did represent a threat to western financial interests. As Sensini writes, “Gaddafi had successfully achieved Libya’s economic independence, and was on the point of concluding agreements with the African Union that might have contributed decisively to the economic independence of the entire continent of Africa.”
Thus, following the NATO attack, Obama confiscated $30 billion from Libya’s Central Bank. Sensini references Ellen Brown, the astute founder of the Public Banking Institute in the U.S., who explains how a state owned Central Bank, as in Libya, contributes to the public’s well-being. Brown in turn refers to the comment of Erica Encina, posted on Market Oracle, which explains how Libya’s 100% state owned Central Bank allowed it to sustain its own economic destiny. Encina concludes, “Hence, taking down the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) may not appear in the speeches of Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy [and Clinton] but this is certainly at the top of the globalist agenda for absorbing Libya into its hive of compliant nations.”
In five pages Sensini tells more truth about the infamous events in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American colleagues than the MSM has done in five years. After the overthrow of Gaddafi, in 2012 Stevens was sharing the American “Consulate” quarters with the CIA. Benghazi was the center of Sanusi jihadi fundamentalism, those who the US/NATO had armed to attack Gaddafi’s government. These terrorists were allied with the US. “Stevens’s task in Benghazi,” writes Sensini, “now was to oversee shipments of Gaddafi’s arms to Turkish ports. The arms were then transferred to jihadi forces engaged in terrorist actions against the government of Syria under Bashar al-Assad.” Contrary to the Western media, Sensini says that Stevens and the others were killed, not by the jihadi extremists supported by the US, but by Gaddafi loyalists who had tried to kill Stevens previously. These loyalists disappeared from the Libyan and international press afterwards. “The reports now focused on al-Qaida, Islamists, terrorists and protesters. No one was to mention either Gaddafi … or his ghosts.”
The stage for a long-term Western intervention against terrorists, who were armed by the US/NATO, was now set. The insoluble disorder of a vicious circle game meant to perpetuate chaos was set in motion. Sensini’s disgust manifests itself when he says, “Given its record of lavish distribution of arms to all and sundry in Syria, the USA’s warning that, in Libya, arms might reach ‘armed groups outside the government’s control’ is beneath contempt.”
Sowing Chaos: Libya in the Wake of Humanitarian Intervention is a superb book. If you wish to understand the ongoing Libyan tragedy, and learn where responsibility lies, read it. If the tale it tells doesn’t disgust you, I’d be surprised.
In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, a stalwart and courageous truth teller, has written a fine forward where she puts Libya and Sensini’s analysis into a larger global perspective. As usual, she pulls no punches.
Copyright © Edward Curtin, Global Research, 2016
Washington’s lie about seeking a genuine ceasefire in Syria is in danger of being exposed for the world to see. So, hilariously, a charade is being hurriedly orchestrated in order to hide this ignominy. As usual, the Syrian government is being scapegoated for the real cause of violence in the country. That real cause is Washington’s state-sponsored terrorist-fueled war for regime change.
After four days of continuing deadly breaches by US-backed «rebels» since the Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire deal was implemented last Monday, Washington and the dutiful Western mainstream media are preparing the inevitable excuses.
Rather than focusing on ongoing «rebel» violence in contravention of the truce, US Secretary of State John Kerry fingered the Syrian government for preventing humanitarian access to insurgent-held eastern Aleppo as the reason for why the ceasefire is in danger of collapsing.
Kerry accused the Syrian government of causing «unacceptable repeated delays» in delivery of humanitarian aid convoys to the northern city. Some 300,000 people are estimated to be stuck in dire conditions in the eastern side of Aleppo, which has become a key battleground in the five-year war.
Western media reports followed suit with Reuters reporting: «Syria ceasefire deal in balance as Aleppo aid plan stalls». Another publication, USA Today, made the more pointed claim: «The regime has broken its pledges on the distribution of life-saving supplies».
So, in Washington’s artful spin of events, it is the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad which is reneging on the ceasefire arrangement by blocking food and medical supplies to starving civilians. This, of course, plays handily into the broader Western narrative that the Syrian «regime» is the ultimate villain of the piece. The vile Assad is mercilessly denying children food and water, goes the spin.
Based on that premise, Washington is giving notice that it will not follow through on its ceasefire commitment to join with Russian air forces for targeting terror groups like ISIS (Daesh) and al Nusra Front. Those anticipated «joint operations» between US and Russian aircraft were supposed to be the highlight of the ceasefire plan worked out last weekend in Geneva by Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
But that supposed «breakthrough» is now in doubt. McClatchy News reported at the end of the week: «US to Russia – Syria military cooperation not guaranteed».
US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters four days into the truce: «If, by Monday we have continued to see reduced violence and no humanitarian access, there will be no Joint Implementation Center [with Russian military]».
Washington is mendaciously trying to pretend that there have been no breaches of the ceasefire and that the whole problem revolves around «no humanitarian access» being granted by the Syrian authorities. If the US does indeed backtrack from its stated prior commitment to cooperate with Russian forces for targeting terror groups then it is safe to assume that the entire ceasefire «deal» will be dead, even as a rhetorical concept.
Admittedly, the level of violence in Aleppo and across the country subsided when the US-Russian ceasefire pact came into effect on September 12. Russian and allied Syrian forces halted their campaign of air strikes. Opposition violence appeared to abate too. Nevertheless, the truce was reportedly violated multiple times by anti-government militias, not just in Aleppo, but in other locations, such as Latakia, Hama and Homs.
Furthermore, there was no apparent distinction between so-called US-backed moderate rebels and recognized terror groups in carrying out these violations. All insurgents groups were engaging in sporadic attacks – in contravention of the putative ceasefire.
Credible Russian military reports confirmed that Syrian army units had observed the truce and had begun demilitarizing a major access road into eastern Aleppo. Syrian troops are being replaced by Russian units to safeguard the route. However, it is the militants who are refusing to withdraw from the Castello Road area, which would provide the humanitarian aid convoys access to the city.
Indeed, insurgent factions openly declared that they would continue shelling and sniping in the Castello Road precisely in order to prevent the aid convoys arriving because they opposed the ceasefire accord even being implemented.
Russia has correctly criticized the US as using a «verbal smokescreen» to conceal why the ceasefire is failing. The point is that Washington has negligible control over its declared moderate rebels. In fact, there is no control because in practice there is no distinction between the myriad illegally armed insurgents.
Like the ceasefire called earlier this year in February, this latest one is breaking down because all the militants continue to breach any cessation. As Lt General Vladimir Savchenko, chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, points out, the US-backed opposition is using the ceasefire simply as an opportunity to rearm and regroup.
And Washington’s policy is impotent about altering that. The CIA and Washington’s allies in Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey armed the anti-government insurgents, including the known terror groups. The regime-change conspirators created a veritable Frankenstein monster over which they now have little control even to the point of getting it to at least appear to be complying with a ceasefire for tactical reasons.
The latest ceasefire is floundering like the previous attempt because Washington’s assertions about «moderate rebels» dissociating from «terror» groups is total and utter humbug.
Risibly, as one could have predicted, John Kerry’s bombastic appeal last weekend for US-backed «rebels» to «separate» from the extremists so that American and Russian forces could then get on with the task of eliminating the terrorists has been subsequently shown to be the consummate delusion that it is.
Washington and its allies are being caught out spectacularly in their lies over the Syrian conflict. The stone-cold truth is that they have been sponsoring terrorist proxies for the criminal purpose of regime change.
So conspicuous and damning is Washington’s nefarious role in Syria’s conflict – which has resulted in 400,000 dead and millions turned into desperate refugees – that this crime has to be covered up at all costs. But covering it up is becoming futile because of the increasing glaring reality.
Syria’s ceasefire is flawed because Washington, the supposed co-architect of the truce along with Moscow, is not motivated by finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The conflict is all about regime change and deploying terrorist agents to achieve that. That is why the ceasefire is failing – yet again.
The unbearable truth about Washington and its criminal gang of state-sponsors of terrorism has to be concealed from public view. And that is why Washington and the dutiful Western media lie machine are cranking up the «explanation» for the ceasefire unravelling as being due to the fault of the Syrian «regime» and its Russian ally for not delivering on humanitarian commitments.
This American smokescreen has been pumped out for nearly six years in Syria. It is really galling to hear the likes of John Kerry and Barack Obama talk about «human suffering» and the need for humanitarian ceasefires.
The suffering and violence in Syria will stop when Washington is seen for the criminal regime that it is. That day is coming. The American smokescreen is dissipating with each passing day because of its absurd contradictions.
And the terrorists – state sponsors and proxies alike – are finally being exposed.
North Korea’s nuclear test of September 9, 2016, the fifth and largest measuring twice the force of previous blasts, prompted a predictable round of condemnations by the United States and its allies along with calls for China to step up its enforcement of sanctions on North Korea. Yet few “expert” analyses suggest that China will risk destabilizing North Korea or that further United Nations resolutions and international sanctions will succeed in deterring North Korea from pursuing its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
The Obama administration’s reliance on China to rein in North Korea is at odds with its efforts to contain China’s influence in Asia, a quixotic goal in itself. It reflects an unrealistic desire for China to be influential just enough to do the bidding of the United States but not powerful enough to act in its own interests. North Korea is, after all, China’s strategic ally in the region, and it is in South Korea that the United States plans to deploy THAAD, a defense system with radar capable of tracking incoming missiles from China. It is simply not in China’s interest to risk losing an ally on its border only to have it replaced by a U.S.-backed state hosting missile-tracking systems and other military forces targeting it. And China knows it is not the target of North Korea’s nukes. If the United States cannot punt the problem of North Korea’s nuclear weapons to China it must deal with North Korea directly.
Indeed, in response to U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s recent condemnation of China’s “role” and “responsibility” in failing to restrain North Korea’s nuclear pursuits, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on the United States to take a long hard look at its own foreign policy:
The cause and crux of the Korean nuclear issue rest with the US rather than China. The core of the issue is the conflict between the DPRK and the US. It is the US who should reflect upon how the situation has become what it is today, and search for an effective solution. It is better for the doer to undo what he has done. The US should shoulder its due responsibilities.
In equally unmincing terms, the Global Times, an offshoot of the People’s Daily, charged the United States with “refusing to sign a peace treaty with Pyongyang” in a September 11, 2016 editorial. Alluding to a long history of U.S. nuclear threats against North Korea, the editorial elaborated: “The Americans have given no consideration to the origin and the evolution of North Korea’s nuclear issue or the negative role Washington has been playing over the years.” It further clarified: “Without the reckless military threat from the US and South Korea and the US’s brutal overthrow of regimes in some small countries, Pyongyang may not have developed such a firm intent to develop nuclear weapons as now.”
Despite President Barack Obama’s efforts over his two terms in office to “pivot” or “rebalance” U.S. foreign policy to Asia and the Pacific and his repeated identification of the United States as a Pacific power, the memory of nuclear ruin in the region is shadowed by the history of the United States as a first-user of atomic weapons against civilian populations in Japan at the close of World War II and as a tester of devastating nuclear technology, including human radiation experiments, in the Marshall Islands during the Cold War. Moreover, it has not gone unnoticed that President Obama, despite his professed commitment to nuclear de-escalation, has refused to issue an “unequivocal no-first-use pledge.”
In Korea, the one place on the planet where nuclear conflagration is most likely to erupt, given the current state of affairs, President Obama can still end the threat of nuclear warfare. This would require what few in his administration appear to have entertained, namely, the elimination of the demand for North Korea to agree to irreversible denuclearization as a precondition for bilateral talks. This rigid goal makes it virtually impossible for the United States to respond positively to any overture from North Korea short of a fantastic offer by that country to surrender all its nuclear weapons. The premise that the denuclearization of North Korea is necessary to ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula needs to be shelved, and all possibilities for finding common ground upon which to negotiate the cessation of hostilities on the Korean peninsula should be explored.
It should be recalled that possibly no country, including Japan, has greater fear of overbearing Chinese influence than North Korea. Arguing for the relevance of past U.S. negotiations with North Korea, Stanford scholar Robert Carlin points out that North Korea in 1996 opposed President Clinton’s notion of Four-Party talks involving China because they “went counter to a basic Pyongyang policy goal; that is, to limit Chinese influence by improving U.S.-DPRK relations.” More recently, former CNN journalist Mike Chinoy, similarly observed: “[North Koreans] hate the idea that the Chinese can come in and tell them what to do. And the reality is the Chinese can’t.”
At this juncture, given the demonstrated failure of President Obama’s “strategic patience” or non-negotiation policy with North Korea, the unthinkable must be seriously considered. Could an alliance between the United States and North Korea preserve U.S. influence in the region, albeit along avowedly peaceful lines, provide North Korea with a hedge against infringement of its sovereignty by China and eliminate the rationale for deploying THAAD in South Korea, thus alleviating a major sore point between China and the U.S.-South Korea alliance?
Let us also recall that North Korea offered to halt testing of its nuclear weapons if the United States agreed to put an end to the annual U.S.-South Korea war games. Combining live artillery drills and virtual exercises, these war games, as of this year, implemented OPLAN 5015, a new operational war plan that puts into motion a preemptive U.S. nuclear strike against North Korea and the “decapitation” of its leadership. Unsurprisingly, North Korea considers this updated operational plan to be a rehearsal for Libya-style regime change. In January of this year, the United States turned down North Korea’s offer before the start of the spring U.S.-South Korea war games, and did so again in April. The United States has thus twice this year dismissed the prospect of halting North Korea’s advance towards miniaturizing a nuclear bomb and fitting it atop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the continental United States ostensibly because North Korea refused to entertain U.S. insistence on its complete denuclearization as part of the package.
President Obama should prioritize any and all possibilities for achieving a halt to North Korea’s nuclear programs by diplomacy, over the goal of achieving an illusory agreement for complete denuclearization. As an achievement, halting North Korea’s nuclear advances is far short of the peace treaty needed to bring an end to the Korean War and a lasting peace to Korea. It is far short of creating international conditions for the Korean people to achieve the peaceful reunification of their country. And it is a far cry from achieving nuclear disarmament on a global scale. Yet, as a redirection of U.S. policy towards engagement with North Korea, it would be the greatest achievement in U.S. Korea policy of the last fifteen years, and a concrete step towards achieving denuclearization in the region, and worldwide.
 “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference on September 12, 2016,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 12 September 2016, available online at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/t1396892.shtml.
 “Carter Wrong to Blame China for NK Nuke Issue,” Global Times, 11 September 2016, available online at http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1005942.shtml.
 David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, “Obama Unlikely to Vow No First Use of Nuclear Weapons,” The New York Times, 5 September 2016, available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/06/science/obama-unlikely-to-vow-no-first-use-of-nuclear-weapons.html.
 Robert Carlin, “Negotiating with North Korea: Lessons Learned and Forgotten,” Korea Yearbook: Politics, Economy and Society, eds. Rüdiger Frank et al. (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2008), 241.
 Qtd. in James Griffiths, “What Can China Do about Nuclear North Korea,” CNN, 7 January 2016, available online at http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/07/asia/north-korea-china-nuclear-test/.
 See “North Korea Says Peace Treaty, Halt to Exercises, Would End Nuclear Tests,” Reuters, 16 January 2016, available online at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-nuclear-usa-idUSKCN0UT201.
 See “Obama Rejects North Korea’s Offer to Ease Nuclear Tests if U.S. Stops War Exercises with South,” Association Press,24 April 2016, available online at http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/obama-rejects-north-koreas-offer-to-cease-nuclear-tests-if-u-s-stops-war-exercises-with-south.
When US President Barack Obama attempted to leave Air Force One upon arriving at Hangzhou, China, just southwest of Shanghai, he found that no staircase or red carpet awaited him. Instead, he and his staff were forced to use an alternative exit from the aircraft, only to find additional restrictions placed upon them on the tarmac.
The New York Times in its article, “Bumpy Beginning for Obama in China, Starting on the Tarmac,” would note:
There was no staircase for Obama to exit the plane and descend on the red carpet. Obama used an alternative exit.
On the tarmac, a quarrel broke out between a presidential aide and a Chinese official who demanded the journalists traveling with Obama be prohibited from getting anywhere near him. It was a breach of the tradition observed whenever the American president arrives in a foreign place.
When the White House official insisted the U.S. would set the rules for its own leader, her Chinese counterpart shot back.
“This is our country! This is our airport!” the Chinese official yelled.
Rather than accept and adapt to the conditions set forth by their Chinese hosts, the President’s staff quarrelled with them, marking yet another ungraceful bout of American exceptionalism where even in another’s country, America’s will is expected to be fulfilled.
Reflecting on the event, President Obama made cryptic comments seemingly both attempting to downplay the event as a mere oversight, but alluding to the fact that it was more than a mere oversight by their Chinese hosts.
And in fact, it was no oversight. It was a clear message to America that the age of American exceptionalism, particularly in Asia, is over.
America’s Ungraceful Exit from Asia
In and of itself, President Obama’s ungraceful exit from Air Force One may seem like an insignificant event. When added together with a general decline of American influence and regarding the respect it had once commanded across Asia, it is highly symbolic of a global hegemon being pushed from an entire corner of the globe.
It was just recently that the US concluded a lengthy and costly public relations campaign, dressed up as an “international tribunal” conducted at The Hague in the Netherlands that predictably concluded that China held no legitimate claims in the South China Sea.
The “ruling” was allegedly made in favour of the Philippines, despite the legal team being headed by an American, Paul S. Reichler of Foley Hoag. Despite what Washington believed would be a crushing rhetorical blow to Beijing, not only did Beijing dismiss the entire proceeding out of hand, the Philippines itself refused to capitalise on the transparently politically-motivated and provocative ruling.
US pressure on the Philippines, until recently considered a stalwart ally, even a subordinate functionary of Washington, eventually resulted in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte directly mocking America’s ambassador to the nation, denouncing him as an effeminate meddler.
The previous year, the US had been pressuring Thailand to allow Chinese terror suspects to travel onward to Turkey despite an extradition request from China. Thailand ignored US demands and returned the suspects to face justice in China.
In both cases terrorism struck shortly after, with a bomb striking in the centre of Bangkok killing 20 and maiming many more, and just recently a bomb exploding in the Philippine city of Davao, where President Duterte had previously served as mayor.
In Cambodia, the nation’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has openly accused the US of attempting to subvert political stability around the globe. This was in reference to opposition groups the US State Department is now using to pressure the Cambodian government after its decisive shift away from US interests toward Beijing.
In essence, while the US announced its “pivot” toward Asia, Asia itself appears to be pivoting away from the US. Thus, the incident on the tarmac in Hangzhou is a microcosm of what is taking place across Asia, an unwillingness of locals to further capitulate to American exceptionalism, and an ungraceful America unable to recognise or adapt to this shifting geopolitical reality.
In the end, America with its hegemonic hubris will ensure that it is fully pushed out of Asia, missing what is perhaps a final opportunity to readjust its relationship with the region away from adversarial domination toward something more equitable, proportional and constructive.
Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas .
Summoning the Humanitarian Pretext
The arch pragmatist Machiavelli once wrote that, “If you watch the ways of men, you will see that those who obtain great wealth and power do so either by force or fraud, and having got them they conceal under some honest name the foulness of their deeds.” You couldn’t pen a better description of the relationship between the imperial corporate state and its supplicant media. Once the coffers of vulnerable nations are ransacked by American wars of aggression, it is the media that sweeps the crimes of state beneath a carpet of piety. The truth may come out in due time, although it is always ex post facto. Thanks to the the coordination between the corporate sector, the state, and the media, the American doctrinal system is largely a self-contained narrative. It comes complete with a smooth internal logic. Corporations set priorities, the state produces a storyline that rationalizes the pursuit of those priorities, and the media distributes and reifies the storyline until it is gospel. This is no surprise, since the corporations own the politicians and the presses. Yet one way to examine the functioning of this kind of systemic propaganda is by looking at some of the keywords on which the stories hinge.
The foul deeds Machiavelli mentioned now principally occur in the Middle East, where vast resources lie and where power may be usefully projected deep into Eurasia. The Syrian proxy war between forces east and west is a nice example of how the dissimulations initiated in Washington are disseminated through the MSM. For instance, The New York Times, and its deputies in the vast clearinghouses of state propaganda, would have us believe that the White House is supporting freedom-loving rebels in Syria who are politically moderate and fighting for their lives in a civil war against a despotic regime led by an evil optometrist, Bashar al-Assad.
But we know that the entire Syrian fiasco was engineered by the CIA with cash, guns, and training, and unceasing support from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at our behest. It is a long-standing neoconservative plan to break the so-called Shia Crescent that runs from Lebanon through Syria to Iran. These are, of course, the independent-minded states that have thus far refused to accept either Israeli colonization of Palestinian land or permit Western-backed energy projects to take shape on their territory. Hence the need to dismember them into tiny, feckless statelets that pose no challenge to either Tel Aviv or Washington.
But this is hidden behind the fog of war and a domestic haze of media nuance. This entire conflict could reasonably be said to hinge on a single phrase: “moderate rebels.” The words “moderate” and “rebel” make all the difference in the telling of this fable. The truth is that we have hijacked Arab Spring discontent and festooned it with brigades of terrorist mercenaries procured from around the Middle East and Asia, all with the singular mandate to take down the Assad government. Tens of thousands of jihadists have been injected by NATO into a multi-confessional state governed by an elected leader who won a larger percentage of the electorate than our liberal messiah Barack Obama.
But this more truthful interpretation of events is unacceptable. To concede that the White House is now backing al-Qaeda terrorists in an effort to capsize a Middle Eastern democracy would implode the religion of American exceptionalism on which elite power depends. Thus the media cannot point out that the Pentagon’s recent admission of having troops in Syria violates the Nuremberg Principles on wars of aggression as well as the United Nations Charter. Omissions of this kind are what prevent average Americans from a) knowing what we’re really doing; and b) resisting it.
Demonize and Distract
But it isn’t enough to simply cloak our own crimes in the holy cloth of exceptionalism. We must defame our enemies. We must plant false flags in their soil now so that we can bury bombs in them later. It happens the same way every time. ‘Shocking’ discoveries are made about one of our most reviled enemies, usually provided by a defector with a farcical alias (think “Curveball”). Instantaneous mainstream reports issue a coordinated condemnation of the country in question. Each media outlet chooses a particular keyword to drive home the horror. Popular terms include “crimes against humanity”, “war crimes”, the words “industrial scale” in front of any noun or verb, the word “mass” in front of any noun or verb, “brutal crackdown”, “regime”, and so on. Grisly images are plastered across the front pages of the MSM. Often the images are fakes or are from unrelated incidents.
Once the reader has been stupefied, at least one columnist or politician will draw a deep breath, and then ‘draw comparisons’ to either Hitler and Auschwitz or Slobodan Milosevic and mass graves. (Recently Milosevic was declared innocent of all genocidal charges by the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia, albeit years after he died in prison after being denied medical treatment by his civilized captors. This process of posthumous exoneration is now practiced on an “industrial scale” by Obama’s drone assassination when various innocents are discovered to have been innocent after they’ve been “terminated”.)
Not only is the supposedly noble Syrian uprising a fraud, but so is our equally principled goal of wiping ISIS from the face of the earth, if the facts on the ground are of any import. Washington has gone after ISIS in a strangely half-hearted way. Why hasn’t it provided air cover for Syrian Arab Army when its helicopters were rendered useless by terrorist TOW missiles? Missiles sold by the United States to Saudi Arabia, likely for the express purpose of funneling them to al Nusrah and other rogue bandits in Syria. Why did the U.S. not immediately attack ISIS-controlled oil wells and oil trading routes–ISIS’ chief source of funding–as Russia did on its entry into the conflict? Why did the Obama administration produce a record-setting arms deal with the Saudis, the leading proselytizer of Wahhabism in the world? Why do we refuse to work with Moscow or the SAA or Iran? Why do we not share grids and intelligence and join their joint operations room in Baghdad?
Isn’t it obvious? We have different goals. We want Assad out and a daft, pliant puppet in charge, presiding over a vast arsenal of domestic police, ready to crush resistance on contact. Of course, any such resisters would be legitimate freedom fighters, as are the Palestinians. But the media takes care to call Palestinians “terrorists” and called citizens resisting the Iraqi occupation “insurgents”. Words matter. They shade the story and bring neutral readers over to the side of empire. They blame the victim for the violence that victimized them.
The dissimulation becomes even clearer when you realize that ISIS emerged from an American interrogation camp in Iraq, in a way that suggests CentCom was more than happy to release radicalized Islamists into the wild. To what purpose? The failed state in Libya and the collapsing scenery of the Syrian state provide plenty of fodder for speculation.
The Wages of Propaganda
Thanks to years of conditioning by the media, the population will do little to resist the escalation to come. Eventually the Syrian “regime” to be eventually overthrown by relentless American-backed violence. Hillary Clinton will win the election and gain control of the Oval Office. As Glen Ford wrote at Black Agenda Report, Clinton will “… ride into the White House on a warhorse”. She is the thinking man’s neocon, unlike President Bush, who represented the anti-intellectual strain of the American character, and Barack Obama, whose reluctance to pour troops into Arab prairie fires was widely predictably condemned as a sign of weakness.
Hillary is neither stupid nor soft. She will doubtless find a useful pretext by which to declare a no-fly zone in Syria, which would inhibit the efficacy of Russia’s campaign against various terrorist clans. (A House resolution is already afoot to lay the groundwork.) She will move more troops into the polder of northern Syria, violating all kinds of charters and conventions and declarations with an icy mixture of contempt and indifference. (See the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the bootless scraps of paper she will trample.) Perhaps most importantly, she will green light the transport of more arms, ammunition, and psychopaths into Syria to make a push for Damascus in the hopes of repeating the Libyan calamity.
Should that project succeed, Hillary will quite possibly ‘discover’ that Iran has been violating its bogus nuclear agreement with the P5 +1. Anonymous administration sources will be “troubled” by the development. This isn’t idle speculation. For lack of a better title, the long-term strategy for the “new world order,” as George H.W. Bush put it, is contingent on splitting the Shia Crescent, removing Iran as a regional antagonist, then moving farther into Eurasia to control Sino-Russian development. And we know how a confrontation with Tehran would play out. With rabid spittle cresting his white beard, Wolf Blitzer will escort numberless brigadier generals through The Situation Room to reassure Americans that the bearded mullahs in Qom are indeed a fearsome clan. Hillary will threaten, and perhaps use, tactical nuclear weapons (B-61s) on Iranian nuclear sites, backed by either a UN Security Council resolution of dubious authority or a coalition of the bullied, bought, and willing. As the mushroom cloud envelops the region in radioactive waste, Israel will be seen fastidiously colonizing more West Bank land, Benjamin Netanyahu rubbing his hands in frenzied anticipation, a dogeared copy of the Yinon plan stuffed in his jacket pocket. Saudi Arabia’s Deputy and Crown Princes will celebrate the fall of their hated rivals. Laconic onlookers in Washington and Europe will shrug and say nothing. CIA plants in D.C. will fastidiously distance Hillary’s bombs from Hiroshima’s, and Tel Aviv will move against Hezbollah in a final confrontation, since the Shia Crescent will by then be nothing more than a few shards of Mesopotamian culture atop a flaming midden.
With the Middle East finally brought “to heel,” as Hillary once proposed doing to young black boys, the ground will have been cleared for the pulse-racing showdown with Russia itself, the greatest thorn in Washington’s side. With Assad out of the way and Tehran chastened, the Kremlinologists and conspiracy theorists can be set loose to harrow the public into a state of high anxiety about the “expansionist” state to the East. NATO will inch closer to Russian borders and shout that Russia is moving closer to NATO. Destabilization will proceed apace. It will be called “democracy promotion” and will be paid for by fronts called “endowments”. Sanctions will tighten the economic screws. Verbal salvos will hit targets on either side of the water. New proxy wars will be touched off. Only a giant peace movement or stray asteroid could prevent something like this from happening. Perhaps the BRICS will halt the spread of empire with a collective stance, but Washington is agile if not artful at executing its core strategy to destabilize, divide, and rule its rivals. Until then, if you want to know what contempt looks like, look at this picture of Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin meeting at the G20 in China last week. The tenor of tomorrow is written all over their faces.
Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Barack Obama uncomfortably accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Dec. 10, 2009. (White House photo)
Time is running short for President Obama to make good on his 2009 promise “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet as both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times recently reported, Obama’s advisers may have just nixed the single most important reform advocated by arms control advocates: a formal pledge that the United States will never again be the first country to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.
Ever since President Truman ordered two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, the United States has reserved the right to initiate nuclear war against an overwhelming conventional, chemical or biological attack on us or our allies. But peace advocates — and more than a few senior military officers — have long warned that resorting to nuclear weapons would ignite a global holocaust, killing hundreds of millions of people.
In a talk to the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association on June 6, Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes promised that President Obama would continue to review ways to achieve his grand vision of a nuclear-free world during his last months in office. Obama was reportedly considering a “series of executive actions” to that end, including a landmark shift to a “no first use” policy.
Two-thirds of adult Americans surveyed support such a policy. So do 10 U.S. senators who wrote President Obama in July, proposing a no-first-use declaration to “reduce the risk of accidental nuclear conflict” and seeking cut-backs in his trillion dollar plan for nuclear modernization over the next 30 years.
But Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (who oversees the nuclear stockpile), and Secretary of State John Kerry all warned during a National Security Council meeting in July that declaring a policy of “no first use” would alarm America’s allies, undercut U.S. credibility, and send a message of weakness to the Kremlin at a time of tense relations with Russia.
Yet until they took charge of giant bureaucracies whose funding depends on keeping the threat of nuclear war alive, both Carter and Moniz were on record supporting “a new strategy for reducing nuclear threats” and achieving security “at significantly lower levels of nuclear forces and with less reliance on nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.”
In a 2007 manifesto, Carter, Moniz, and other centrist Democratic foreign policy experts rejected the old claim that nuclear weapons are still needed to deter non-nuclear attacks.
“Nuclear weapons are much less credible in deterring conventional, biological, or chemical weapon attacks,” they wrote. “A more effective way of deterring and defending against such non-nuclear attacks – and giving the President a wider range of credible response options – would be to rely on a robust array of conventional strike capabilities and strong declaratory policies.”
They also gave strong implicit support to a no-first-use doctrine, stating that “nuclear weapons must be seen as a last resort, when no other options can ensure the security of the U.S. and its allies.”
Risk of Overreaction
Why does a no-first-use policy matter? In a New York Times column last month, Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and head of the United States Strategic Command, emphasized the folly of introducing nuclear weapons into any conflict.
“Using nuclear weapons first against Russia and China would endanger our and our allies’ very survival by encouraging full-scale retaliation,” he and a colleague wrote. “Such use against North Korea would be likely to result in the blanketing of Japan and possibly South Korea with deadly radioactive fallout.”
A policy of no first use, backed up by a reconfiguration of U.S. nuclear forces to reduce their offensive capabilities, would lower the chance of a rival nuclear power rushing to launch early in a crisis and unleashing World War III. Today some nuclear powers like Russia have their forces on hair-trigger alert for fear of being wiped out by a U.S. surprise attack; as a result, the world is just one false alarm away from all-out nuclear war.
As two senior officials at the Arms Control Association observed recently in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Among other advantages, a clear US no-first-use policy would reduce the risk of Russian or Chinese nuclear miscalculation during a crisis by alleviating concerns about a devastating US nuclear first-strike.
“Such risks could grow in the future as Washington develops cyber offensive capabilities that can confuse nuclear command and control systems, as well as new strike capabilities and strategic ballistic missile interceptors that Russia and China believe may degrade their nuclear retaliatory potential.”
They also discounted the claim that U.S. allies such as Japan or Korea would rebel against such a change of policy: “They are highly likely to accept such a decision, since no first use will in no way weaken US military preparedness to confront non-nuclear threats to their security. . . Many US allies, including NATO members Germany and the Netherlands, support the adoption of no-first-use policies by all nuclear-armed states.”
Warnings by nuclear hawks that a common-sense doctrine of no-first-use would undercut U.S. “credibility” or project “weakness” are simply business-as-usual attempts by national security bureaucrats to inflate threats and keep the war machine in high gear. If they succeed in blocking reform, America and the rest of the world will remain at real risk of annihilation through accidental nuclear escalation.
The question now is whether President Obama will listen to the fear-mongers in his cabinet, or remember what he said in May at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial: “Among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”
Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012). Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.”
It is not just a double standard for the United States to have its aircraft fly so close to Russian territory; it is a refusal on the US part to be safe, to fly safe, Karen Kwiatkowski, retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, told RT.
Three American spy planes were intercepted by a Russian fighter jet while approaching Russian airspace over the Black Sea, according to US Defense officials, cited by the Reuters news agency.
“On September 7, US P-8 Poseidon surveillance airplanes tried to approach the Russian border twice… with their transponders off,” Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
The SU-27 fighter jets that intercepted the US aircraft were acting “in strict accordance with international flight rules,” the statement reads.
RT: How safe is it to fly with transponders switched off? It’s well known that civil aviation is unable to recognize an aircraft if they are not turned on, is that right?
Karen Kwiatkowski: That is true. They are tracked by radar, but… this tells the planes in the sky where they are and who they are.
It is pretty dangerous [not to have transponders switched on] depending on the traffic. In some parts of the world it wouldn’t be dangerous, but certainly in a crowded airspace it is going to be a problem. Particularly in this example, when we do have a big Russian exercise in that area. There is going to be a lot of extra air traffic, and a lot of it maybe military, as well as the normal civilian and transport traffic that you are going to have. So at this particular time given the exercise, it is probably the worst time to have your transponders off.
RT: Do you think that media are going too far in accusing Russia here? Is it a case of double standards?
KK: It’s definitely double standards, but that is not unusual with the US and our policy around the world. We have one set of rules for ourselves and what we expect others to do. I do think it’s interesting that Finland in trying to deal with some of the things up in the Baltic area has proposed that in places like this Baltic Sea and around NATO, certainly the Black Sea – they have proposed, and Russia I believe has supported this, that all airplanes keep their transponders on at all times when they are in these areas.
It is the US that has not been supportive of that. I think even some of the NATO countries are supportive, but the US in particular is not. Clearly given the past history – this has happened numerous times in the past several years – we fly with transponders off when we’re in our surveillance planes. This is a traditional way of doing business to test the so-called enemy, to test their responses. We’re probing, we’re testing their responses – we’re doing it in a dangerous way, and then when something happens, we’re blaming the side that was doing exactly what we hoped and expected they would do. So it is not a good thing. It is not just a double standard – it is a refusal on the US part to be safe, to fly safe…
These things are fixable, and the fact that we’re not fixing them, the fact that we’re letting these things happen, is a little bit scary. It seems to be a policy-driven provocation, something that is geared to produce a reaction that might play into the hands of those in the United States who are looking for conflict.
US flying without transponders a provocation
Michael Maloof, former Pentagon officer said that flying without transponders turned on is extremely dangerous, that is why it was right for Russian jets to scramble to at least identify what the aircraft was.
RT: How dangerous is it to fly without transponders turned on?
Michael Maloof: It’s extremely dangerous, and it is basically a provocation for a hostile act. I think that the Russian Ministry of Defense should file a formal complaint about that. When an aircraft like that is flying without its transponders it cannot be identified, and it was only right that Russian jets scrambled to at least identify what the aircraft was. And when they did come upon it, they discovered it was one of the more sophisticated – what we call C4ISR aircraft – which has all the latest sophistication on it.
Basically, the transponders being off tells me at least that the aircraft was probing, sensing what radar systems would light up that would be alerted, and what defense systems would come on as a result in order to identify where they are actually located. But to be in that area… is almost a provocation in itself. You don’t see Russian aircraft flying within 100 km of the US border, or stationing its ships out as we’re doing in the Baltic Sea right now.
RT: This particular aircraft is capable of hacking military installations. How likely is it in your opinion, that this was why it was flying so close to Russia?
MM: Well, as I said it has, what I said it has C4ISR – that is command, control, communications, and computers: I – for intelligence; S – for surveillance; R – for reconnaissance. It is the most sophisticated system that we have in probing the electronics of a potential adversary. It is to test, to see what goes on, what defense systems are going on; they can pick up all kinds of frequencies. It is an amazing technology, but its uses are clearly for intelligence gathering. It’s the most sophisticated [type of aircraft] we have.