A US senator has called on FIFA not to allow Russia to host the 2018 World Cup following the corruption scandal in the soccer’s world governing body.
“I applaud today’s actions and am especially pleased that Swiss and US authorities are investigating FIFA’s granting of the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022,” Senator Robert Menendez said.
“I have long been concerned about FIFA’s selection of Russia and today’s announcement only underscores the need for FIFA to elect a president who will not only uphold FIFA’s values, but will ensure FIFA does not reward countries that do not uphold these values as well,” he was quoted as saying by The Hill.
On Wednesday, police in Switzerland complied with a US request arrested nine top FIFA officials to investigate decades of alleged bribe-taking and backroom deals.
The US Justice Department brought an indictment against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
According to the indictment, $150 million were paid in “bribes and kickbacks” to obtain media and marketing rights to international tournaments.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the US for overstepping its legal authority by helping Swiss law enforcement on the case.
In an interview with TIME, Kirill Kabanov, who monitors corruption in Russia as a member of the Kremlin’s council on civil society, blasted Washington’s policies against Moscow.
“There are clearly forces in America that are trying to turn anything positive that we have into a new channel of confrontation,” Kabanov said on Wednesday.
“And even if there was bribery going on, why would the Americans only bring it up now, just after FIFA refused the demands of senators to revoke Russia’s right to host the champions?”
In a letter to the FIFA last month, 13 American senators asked FIFA President Sepp Blatter to take the next World Cup away from Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been overseeing the preparations of the next World Cup that will be held in Russia in 2018.
Russia won’t try and get its ill-fated Mistral helicopter carriers from France, a Russian official has announced. Moscow and Paris are set to discuss damages to be paid by France for welching on the deal.
“Russia won’t be taking them [the Mistral vessels]. That’s a fact. There’s just a single discussion underway at the moment – on the amount of money that should be returned to Russia,” Oleg Bochkarev, a deputy chairman of the Russian governmental Military-Industrial Commission, is cited as saying by RBC.
The negotiations have been “transferred into the commercial field” and “major efforts are being made today” for Russia to receive damages, Bochkarev told RIA Novosti.
France reportedly offered €748 million as compensation, but Russia turned down the proposal, calling it “laughable.”
The official also said that Russia would build its own helicopter carriers, in place of the Mistral warships, which Paris refused to supply Moscow.
“We have such vessels planned, they’re on the drawing board,” Bochkarev stressed, adding that they will be of a different class to the French-built ships as “there’s no point copying the Mistrals.”
Russia and France signed a €1.12 billion contract to build two Mistral class amphibious ships in 2011.
Under the deal, Russia was supposed to receive the first of the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers, the Vladivostok, in October 2014 and the second, the Sevastopol, in 2015. But the mood in Paris went through a sea change.
In mid-2014, the French side postponed delivery indefinitely due to pressure from the US and the EU, which have imposed a set of sanctions against Moscow over the accession of Crimea and Russia’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.
In late April, French President Francois Hollande acknowledged that Russia should get a refund if it doesn’t receive the Mistral ships.
Earlier this month, an article in the Le Point weekly magazine said the French government could end up having to pay “between €2 billion and €5 billion,” if it doesn’t fulfill its contractual obligations with Russia.
The French Navy repeatedly stated that it doesn’t need the Mistrals as they are built according to Russian standards.
Reports have emerged that the cheapest solution for France would be to scuttle the two newly-built ships as maintaining them costs an estimated €2 to €5 million every month.
Obama made the remarks on Tuesday at the White House in Washington, DC, after discussing the Ukraine crisis there with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We had a chance to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the increasingly aggressive posture that Russia has taken,” Obama said after meeting with Stoltenberg.
Relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War in 1991, largely due to the crisis in Ukraine.
The ties deteriorated after US-backed forces ousted the Ukraine’s elected president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
The US and its allies accuse Moscow of sending troops into eastern Ukraine in support of the pro-Russian forces. Moscow has long denied involvement in Ukraine’s crisis.
Moscow says Washington is responsible for the escalating tension in Ukraine through sending arms in support of the Ukrainian army.
Every moment of every day, all of humanity is held hostage by the nuclear nine. The nine nuclear nations are made up of the P5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and their illegitimate nuclear wannabes Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan, spawned by the mythological theory of deterrence. This theory has fueled the nuclear arms race since its inception wherein if one nation has one nuclear weapon, its adversary needs two and so on to the point that the world now has 15,700 nuclear weapons wired for immediate use and planetary destruction with no end in sight. This inaction continues despite the 45-year legal commitment of the nuclear nations to work toward complete nuclear abolition. In fact just the opposite is happening with the U.S. proposing to spend $1 Trillion on nuclear weapons “modernization” over the next 30 years, fueling the “deterrent” response of every other nuclear state to do likewise.
This critical state of affairs comes as the 189 signatory nations to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) concluded the month long Review Conference at the U.N. in New York. The conference was officially a failure due to the refusal of the nuclear weapons states to present or even support real steps toward disarmament. The nuclear gang demonstrates an unwillingness to recognize the peril that the planet faces at the end of their nuclear gun; they continue to gamble on the future of humanity. Presenting a charade of concern, they blamed each other and bogged down in discussions over a glossary of terms while the hand of the nuclear Armageddon clock continues to move ever forward.
The nuclear weapons states have chosen to live in a vacuum, one void of leadership. They hoard suicidal nuclear weapons stockpiles and ignore recent scientific evidence of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons that we now realize makes these weapons even more dangerous than we thought before. They fail to recognize that this evidence must be the basis for prohibiting and eliminating them.
Fortunately there is one powerful and positive response coming out of the NPT Review Conference. The Non-Nuclear Weapons States, representing a majority of people living on the planet, frustrated and threatened by the nuclear nations, have come together and demanded a legal ban on nuclear weapons like the ban on every other weapon of mass destruction from chemical to biologic and landmines. Their voices are rising up. Following a pledge by Austria in December 2014 to fill the legal gap necessary to ban these weapons, 107 nations have joined them at the U.N. this month. That commitment means finding a legal instrument that would prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Such a ban will make these weapons illegal and will stigmatize any nation that continues to have these weapons as being outside of international law.
Costa Rica’s closing NPT remarks noted, ”Democracy has not come to the NPT but Democracy has come to nuclear weapons disarmament.” The nuclear weapons states have failed to demonstrate any leadership toward total disarmament and in fact have no intention of doing so. They must now step aside and allow the majority of the nations to come together and work collectively for their future and the future of humanity. John Loretz of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said, “The nuclear-armed states are on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of morality, and the wrong side of the future. The ban treaty is coming, and then they will be indisputably on the wrong side of the law. And they have no one to blame but themselves.”
“History honors only the brave,” declared Costa Rica. “Now is the time to work for what is to come, the world we want and deserve.”
Ray Acheson of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom says, “Those who reject nuclear weapons must have the courage of their convictions to move ahead without the nuclear-armed states, to take back ground from the violent few who purport to run the world, and build a new reality of human security and global justice.”
Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician, writes for PeaceVoice, and serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.
Russian national security advisor Nikolai Patrushev has alleged that Western countries have used capital outflows from BRICS countries as a pressure tactic.
India and Brazil, among the BRICS countries, are most vulnerable to capital outflows as they rely heavily on external funding.
Western countries have pulled out more than $3.5 trillion over the last 10 years and $1.5 trillion from BRICS countries over the last three years as a mechanism to pressure the group, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said Tuesday.
“International financial institutions are being used by the West more and more often as an instrument of pressure. Over the last 10 years, the total capital outflow from the BRICS economies has reached $3.5 trillion, and more than half of that total left over the last three years,” Patrushev said during a BRICS security meeting in Moscow.
Patrushev added “the creation of BRICS development bank is an important step in ensuring economic security of the BRICS countries.”
India’s Central Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan, had also said earlier that India needs to build a “bullet-proof national balance sheet” to deal with the fallout on the economy from outflow of capital.
Canada bars Russian delegation from international meeting in Ottawa discussing weapons of mass destruction proliferation
The government of Canada has barred a delegation from Russia from attending a meeting in Ottawa May 26-28 purportedly devoted to restricting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The meeting in question is the Operational Experts Group of the Proliferation Security Initiative.
The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is a global effort that aims to stop trafficking of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems, and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. Launched by United States President George W. Bush in May 2003 at a meeting in Kraków, Poland, the PSI has now grown to include the endorsement of 103 nations around the world, including Russia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and Norway. Despite the support of over half of the Members of the United Nations, a number of countries have expressed opposition to the initiative, including India, China and Indonesia.
Commentary by the Information and Press Department concerning Canada’s refusal of entry to Russian delegation for PSI working group meeting
The Canadian authorities’ decision to deny visas to a Russian delegation at the Proliferation Security Initiative Operational Experts Group meeting was an openly unfriendly move that contradicts the normal practice of multilateral events.
It is regrettable that Ottawa, which has been fanning anti-Russian hysterics for domestic political considerations, has acted contrary to common sense, expropriating the right to decide who can attend an important multilateral event that happens to be held on its territory.
We would like to remind the international community that Russia, being a key partner in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and a full member of the PSI, is not seeking any favours from Canada.
Non-proliferation is a highly important aspect of international cooperation. Squaring political accounts in a narrow-minded manner, which has recently become a favourite hobby for Stephen Harper’s government, is inappropriate and counterproductive.
Washington has blocked the final document of a UN conference that reviewed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, accusing Egypt of manipulating the gathering to target Israel. Moscow has slammed the US for rendering the four-week meeting futile.
The 9th international conference was held in New York from April 27 until May 22. A total of 162 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) participant states were in attendance. These conferences are held every five years to assess the worldwide disarmament process.
The blocked document included a plan to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. To do this, Egypt, who first proposed such a zone in 1980, suggested a regional UN conference on banning weapons of mass destruction. The gathering would have no pre-determined agenda and would go ahead with or without the presence of Israel.
This was stonewalled by the US, with Washington representative Rose Gottemoeller saying the final document reviewed on Friday was “incompatible with our longstanding policies.”
She accused Egypt and other Arab supporters of the nuclear-free zone of being “not willing to let go of these unrealistic and unworkable conditions,” AP reports.
Israel, which is an observer, but not a participant of the NPT, is widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, which it has neither confirmed nor denied. It is also a close ally of the US.
Egypt expressed its disappointment and said: “This will have consequences in front of the Arab world and public opinion.”
Washington’s position was backed by the UK and Canada, ultimately sinking the proposal which had to be approved by all countries.
Russia, for its part, said it was committed to nuclear non-proliferation and saw similar commitment from most other participants.
“The vast majority of the delegations have noted that the treaty remains a ‘cornerstone’ of international security and stability, and serves their interests,” a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said. “Participant countries have confirmed their readiness to comply with their obligations under the NPT.”
“We regretfully acknowledge that because of the positions of the US, Britain and Canada, we could not adopt the final document which included provisions on fulfilling the 1995 resolution on creating a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction.” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
It added, however, that Russia still has faith in the Treaty: “Despite such an outcome of the conference, the Russian Federation is ready to continue cooperating with other countries to help strengthen the NPT, provide its wholesomeness and viability.”
The failure of this conference means the next one can only be held in 2020.
Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said that the United States attempted to encourage Greece to support a new round of Russian sanctions but Athens still enjoys sharing religious and economic bonds with its “friend” and “ally,” Moscow.
After his meeting with US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USDP) Christine Wormuth on Wednesday, Kammenos told reporters: “I was asked to extend the sanctions, particularly in connection with Crimea. I explained [to Wormuth] that the Ukrainian issue was very sensitive for Greece as some 300,000 Greeks live in Mariupol and its neighborhood, and these people feel safe near the [Russian] Orthodox Church.” He, also, added that Greece has already lost more than €4 billion due to the Russian sanctions.
Greece’s Defense Minister has often stated in the near past that his country continues to preserve strong ties with Russia, mainly in the sector of defense contacts. In April, Kammenos revealed to Russian news agency Sputnik that Greece plans to continue military-technical collaboration with Russia while he shared Greece’s desire to settle new agreements, if the EU sanctions against Russia end soon.
Greek Reporter, May 20, 2015
Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was snubbed by his U.S. counterpart, Ashton Carter, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work on his visit to the United States. The U.S. Defense Secretary cancelled the meeting over the weekend, claiming he has a busy schedule.
Kammenos will go to the Pentagon to meet with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth. He will also meet with Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State. Reportedly, Greek diplomats made efforts to upgrade the Greek Defense Minister’s contacts without success.
Kammenos will also have lunch with members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and meet with the Chairman of the House’s Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry as well as Representative Frank Pallone and Senator Jack Reed.
Finally, the Greek Defense Minister will visit Lockheed Martin to discuss a 500 million dollar contract to upgrade five military aircraft.
According to analysts, the U.S. government is displeased with Greece’s new law that theoretically releases convicted terrorist Savvas Xeros. The U.S. Ambassador to Greece, David Pearce, had stated that if Xeros — who is responsible for the assassination of U.S. diplomats — is released from prison, that would be an unfriendly act toward the U.S.
Furthermore, Greece’s flirt with Russia — initiated partly by Kammenos — and certain statements made by the Defense Minister regarding Greece joining the BRICS bank have irked U.S. officials.
Analysts say that Greek-U.S. relations are at the worst point in recent years. Especially at a time when Greece is in the middle of harsh negotiations over its debt and needs all the support it can get.
The following anecdote may or may not be apocryphal, but either way given the geopolitical zeitgeist, the “moral” of the “fable” is a telling one. The story goes that during the 1980s a group of American journalists were hosting a visit to the U.S. of one of their Soviet counterparts. After proudly showing their visitor the “ropes” as to how it all works stateside, most of them expected their guest to express unbridled envy at the professional liberties they enjoyed in the Land of the Free Press. Later, whilst comparing notes about how they respectively went about plying their trade, the Russian scribe was indeed compelled to express his unabashed “admiration” to his hosts – but it was for the “superior quality” of American “propaganda.”
Now it’s fair to say his hosts were taken aback by what was at best a backhanded compliment. After some collegial argy-bargy about the stereotypes customarily associated with Western “press freedom” versus those of the controlled media in the Soviet system, one of the Americans called on their Russian colleague to explain himself. In fractured English, he replied with the following:
“It’s very simple. In Soviet Union, we don’t believe our propaganda. In United States, you actually believe yours!”
Many people familiar with this relatively obscure yarn might this week have once more been reminded of its enduring pertinence in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 eras with the airing last week on “60 Minutes” Australia of a report claiming to have solved the mystery of the Malaysian Airlines MH-17 shoot-down disaster last July 17 over eastern Ukraine.
This would especially have been the case with those of us who’ve had singular difficulty with the official Western position on who was actually responsible for the incident, one to which the “60 Minutes” segment seemed to go out of its way to give its seal of approval.
Along with reviving a major international story that for almost six months now has all but gone missing in media action, the “60 Minutes” crew ostensibly have added fuel to the fire that still attends the broader Ukraine situation, along with that of the resultant standoff between Russia and America and its Western allies, over what is happening in that country. In this context the introductory anecdote (above) takes on additional resonance.
I will return to the actual “60 Minutes” segment shortly along with some reactions to it. However, given the long dormant status of the story, it is necessary to revisit some of the key aspects of this international tragedy, one in which Australia lost 38 people, second only to the Netherlands, which lost 193 nationals.
The significance of the MH-17 story cannot be underestimated, despite – or indeed because of – its extended absence from the news cycle. This, not least because of the large number of family members and friends both in Australia and worldwide of those who perished and who themselves are still, some 10 months later, looking for answers and some closure. Moreover, the very fact this incident took place within the supercharged geopolitical atmosphere that is the Ukraine crisis, one even more charged now than it was then, is also of considerable importance.
From the outset, Western governments and politicians from across the political spectrum – led by the nose by the neoconservative cabals in Washington and dutifully buttressed by their propaganda shills in the corporate or mainstream media (MSM) – relentlessly sought to assign blame to Russia for the shoot-down. This was a textbook media case study reinforcing the old adage about never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. In the course of doing so, they recklessly inflamed an already intense standoff between the two countries over the Ukraine crisis, one that it has to be emphasized, is largely of America’s own making.
Despite official denials from Washington, this “crisis” we now know was custom-designed and purpose-built by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and her posse of “regime changers” in the State Department, dutifully backed up by their neoconservative cronies (including Nuland’s husband Robert Kagan), to say little of the “liberal interventionists” in the Obama administration and in the broader Official Washington community.
As for what actually happened to MH-17 and who was responsible, Washington and the MSM in the West continued to maintain their rage for Russia despite being unable to provide concrete evidence of their claims, all the while singularly failing to provide news consumers and the general public with the full story, at least to the extent it was known.
If nothing else (and with this story there is plenty “else”), the MH-17 fallout was emblematic of the MSM’s long, well (if not fully) documented, and not so illustrious history of venal complicity in blindly validating Western governments’ approved narratives, along with sanctioning their official agendas and, whether through sins of omission or commission, suppressing their secret ones.
This is not conspiracy theory; it’s conspiracy reality. In fact it remains one of the key reasons why the generic MSM brand is in such decline among discerning news consumers seeking timely truths and authentic realities about the world in which we live and the forces which shape it.
For those folks highly skeptical, even dismissive, of the official narrative of the events leading up to and attending the MH-17 disaster, it was and has always been a “put up or shut up” proposition. This is something even the “60 Minutes” folks would have known from the start. And although we can say those promulgating this official narrative were unable to “put up” (albeit not for the want of trying), they eventually did “shut up.”.
The Blame Game
It seems then the politicians and their praetorian guard-dogs in the MSM were unable to sustain the breathlessly hysterical, one-sided “blame game” they collectively indulged in with respect to Russia, all the while reserving particular animus for its President Vladimir Putin. The “blame game” then was called off, though it was always something of a “shell-game” in disguise.
The hypocrisy was breathtaking in its scope, duration and intensity. Indeed, so “hysterical” was the backlash, Western leaders appeared to be outdoing themselves in carrying the can for Washington, with arguably Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott leading the pack by earlier threatening to “shirt-front” the Russian president over the issue during his official visit to this country last November for the 2014 G20 meeting in Brisbane.
Coming from a national leader on the world stage, this unprecedented, petulant outburst was something to behold. But such was the fervor of the times regarding MH-17 especially, and more broadly, the anti-Russian mood that prevailed earlier in the year over Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine in the aftermath of the U.S.’s prefabricated coup d’état.
Yet even putting aside the reality, Abbott was doubtless playing to local audiences given the number of Aussies killed in the shoot-down (to say nothing of his rock-bottom domestic political stocks at the time), it was clear from this moment the anti-Russian mood across the West at least within official circles – if the effective G20 snubbing of Putin was any indication – had indeed reached a crescendo if it hadn’t taken on a life of its own.
The MH-17 incident proved to be a powerful lightning rod through which the bear baiting could effectively be channeled by all and sundry. It was the gift that kept on giving for the neoconservatives and their interventionist confreres, along with those American allies wanting to ingratiate themselves with the Beltway Bandits on both banks of the Potomac.
Then, after the G20 in Brisbane, the collective Western umbrage died out. The intensity and duration of the ongoing anti-Russian feeding frenzy was completely at odds with the abruptness with which the MH-17 matter disappeared from the news cycle. The silence on MH-17 might have been deafening, yet it spoke volumes at the same time, and still does. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Danger of an MH-17 ‘Cold Case’” and “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]
That said, in retrospect it seems it was only a matter of time before someone somewhere sought to revive the story complete with the “Putin did it” narrative. Cue here “60 Minutes” Australia!
The Dogs Not Barking
Now we can only surmise that this recent revelation purporting to be the definitive account of what actually happened to, and who was responsible for, the MH-17 shoot-down was the end result of a decision by the “60 Minutes” folks to boldly go where their colleagues in other MSM outlets feared to tread, fears based one suspects on the old adage that it’s better to let sleeping media dogs lie after all.
Moreover, one suspects this may have been an attempt by “60 Minutes” at brand “rehab,” since for those of us with a more nuanced view of how the MSM really works have known for some time said “brand” has become somewhat shop-soiled over the years. And given “60 Minutes” status as a flagship MSM name – whether in Australia or in the U.S. – going down this path was always going to attract people’s attention. For this reason alone it was fraught with peril, so they just had to get this one right!
Which is to say, this was the only way they could go if they were attempting to revive the MH-17 story. Considering the basic laws governing the media news-cycle, efforts to do so had to be accompanied by some groundbreaking new insights, or at least the next best thing. And one can only wonder what the “next best thing” might have looked like short of finding the “smoking gun” (or should we say, “smoking BUK”) and identifying the persons who fired it. This was especially the case given the hammering the same media gave the issue from the outset.
But in declaring unequivocally they had indeed done all this, in the process correspondent Michael Usher and his intrepid “60 Minutes” team of investigators may have not only opened up a can of worms, they might also have bitten off more than they can chew and dug themselves into an even deeper hole in one fell swoop. They are going to look awfully silly if they aren’t able to sustain the narrative they have assembled from their investigations.
The proof will be in the pudding going forward one imagines, the “pudding” in this case being largely whether the general public in Australia or anywhere else accepts their conclusions, and whether other MSM outlets pick up on the story and continue to run with it. And as of this writing, there appear few signs their MSM confreres – either in Australia or in the U.S. – are chomping at the bit to do so.
With this in mind, if Robert Parry of Consortium News has anything to do with it, rather than gaining any ongoing traction, the story as it stands will be stopped in its tracks. Although his profile Down Under may not be high, Parry is one of America’s most respected investigative journalists working in the alternative, independent media space. He’s also someone who has taken a very strong interest in the MH-17 incident, and in the broader situation in the Ukraine. After viewing the “60 Minutes” report, he was to put it mildly less than impressed with Usher and Co.’s “findings.”
Now because readers can decide for themselves by viewing the various links herein and doing their own research if so inclined, there’s little point rehashing the minutiae of the “60 Minutes” revelations or providing a blow-by-blow account of Parry’s own responses. It is however worth noting some of the key points.
The Video Mismatch
To begin with, Parry suggests that “60 Minutes” might have “faked” a key piece of evidence in arriving at its conclusion – in claiming that it had located the spot where a video was taken after the MH-17 shoot-down and showing what appears to be a BUK launcher making a getaway. The “60 Minutes” team claimed the spot was in rebel-controlled Luhansk and the launcher was fleeing back to Russian territory. However, Parry noted that the scene in the earlier video didn’t match the site shown by “60 Minutes.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Fake Evidence Blaming Russia for MH-17?”]
Further, Parry pointed to one of the main bones of contention for those of us who have had great difficulty accepting the official position, that being “the dog-not-barking question of why the U.S. government has withheld its intelligence data.” This is a not unimportant consideration by any means and one to which we’ll return.
Not unexpectedly the “60 Minutes” folks in response took considerable umbrage at Parry’s suggestion they were engaging in journalistic “sleight-of-hand” in the way they had framed their narrative and presented their “ground-breaking new insights.” One member of the investigative team tweeted that Parry had made a “huge and embarrassing mistake” – but didn’t say what it was.
However it was the segment’s producer Stephen Rice who adopted an especially righteous stance. Describing Parry’s claims as “nonsense, and demonstrably wrong,” he then went for the journalistic jugular by declaring Parry’s piece “an amateurish attempt to discredit our story, embarrassing even for him.” Now the loaded phrase “even for him” is a measure of Rice’s “umbrage” to be sure, and suggests that for reasons about which we can only speculate he had little regard for Parry’s journalistic integrity even prior to his outburst.
There was certainly a whiff of the “methinks he doth protest too much” about it. Yet one is left wondering if Rice is so convinced they got their story right and that the facts speak for themselves, whether this decidedly nasty additive at the end of his salvo was actually necessary, or for that matter was becoming of any self-respecting journalist.
But they left themselves wide open to Parry’s follow-up response, again noting that the two images – one from the night of July 17 and the other from the “60 Minutes” show – simply don’t match up and that all the hostile rhetoric won’t change that fact. Parry again published the side-by-side images with an invitation to readers to decide for themselves. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “You Be the Judge.”]
And in respect to any further consideration of who the real culprits were and as to what actually happened to MH-17 – the sole focus of the “60 Minutes” story – the significance of the “question” regarding why U.S. intelligence data has been withheld cannot be overstated. With this in mind, in the course of their investigation, why didn’t the “60 Minutes” folks seek out someone from the U.S. Government to provide corroboration or otherwise from their own intelligence data as to the veracity of their findings?
Or to put it in even simpler terms, why didn’t “60 Minutes” ask the U.S. Government point-blank why they have thus far refused to release all the satellite imagery and related intelligence data on the MH-17 shoot-down that by most objective accounts would put the matter to rest once and for all? We might safely surmise herein this is because of the same reason there is still much evidence yet to see the light of day regarding the JFK Thing, or the 9/11 Thing, or the Iran/Contra Thing or any number of other memorable “Things” for which full explanations and revelations from the U.S. government remain outstanding.
More Revelation, Less Accusation
Taking then a broader view, there are a myriad range of other issues and angles to be considered for anyone revisiting the whole MH-17 tragedy: the geopolitical milieu in which the MH-17 incident took place and the narrative framework in which its story continues to play out – the ongoing Ukraine crisis created by Washington; the West’s diplomatic marginalization of Russia coupled with the economic sanctions; the incessant saber-rattling and continuing encroachment by NATO around Russia’s borders; the resentment and suspicion that America through its belligerent foreign policy machinations is fomenting with nations such as Iran, China and others – all has the potential to determine the fate of nations and the geopolitical landscape for years to come. And not it needs be said, in a good way. And that’s without considering the “nuke” factor!
In this context then, the MH-17 disaster in realpolitik terms may not even matter that much anymore. This may explain why the story disappeared so quickly from the media radar. In reality and again with the benefit of some rear-view-mirror gazing, the MH-17 tragedy was always a geopolitical football from the beginning, and in that sense it has long since served its purpose.
To underscore this and at the same time point to some of those myriad issues and angles regarding the MH-17 shoot-down that have all been swept under the carpet – including it should be noted by our intrepid “60 Minutes” journalistic “gumshoes” – the documentary by Peter Vlemmix is a must watch.
To be sure, there are “plenty” of other folks who have questioned and indeed openly challenged the rationale for the official response from Western politicians and the MSM. But Vlemmix’s film is as good a place to begin for those looking to gain a more complete – and more dispassionate – perspective. And for those wishing to explore an alternative summary of the evidentiary minutiae specifically addressed by “60 Minutes,” the link herein is also highly recommended.
Further, it may also be instructive to consider the following. Over three months ago and well after the MH-17 story disappeared from the radar, I personally sent to Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop an email presenting her with a number of queries regarding the Australian government’s official position on MH-17 at that point. These are some of the questions I asked the Minister then, and they remain pertinent now:
- What countries are currently involved in [the MH-17] investigation, and what specific role is Australia playing? At what stage is the investigation itself and when does the Minister expect that it will be completed and a report available?
- Can the minister confirm or deny speculation/reports that the findings of the investigation will not be released? If they are not to be released as has been reported, can the Minister please explain why this is the case?
- If it is found the Ukrainian separatists were responsible – which seems to be the official position of most stakeholders – will this change the position of the countries involved as to whether the findings indeed will be released if at this stage there is – as reported – no plans to do so?
- If the report is not to be released, will the relatives of the victims be privy to the findings, regardless of the outcome of said findings? If not, why not? If so, what conditions might be placed on them re: confidentiality if indeed the report is not going to be released in full un-redacted? Will they still be able to seek compensation from those responsible, regardless of who that is?
- If it is found that the Russian separatists were not in fact responsible for this disaster, will the Australian government lift the sanctions imposed on the Russian government in the wake of the disaster? Will the Australian Prime Minister also apologise to the Russian president for both the imposition of the sanctions, and the manner in which he was treated during the Brisbane G20?
- If in fact it is found that the Ukrainian regime was responsible, will the Australian government seek compensation for victims and reimbursement for the cost of the recovery operation and investigation? Will it seek an official apology from and/or impose economic sanctions on the Ukraine regime in response? Will the relevant members of the Ukrainian regime face possible criminal charges in international courts?
Now there was no response from the Minister’s office despite a follow-up query, which for most may not be surprising. And we can only speculate as to whether I might have received a reply had I been a “60 Minutes” investigative reporter. For others, especially after all the brouhaha surrounding MH-17, the no-reply might also be something of a fashion statement.
But the point herein is this: As with all incidents useful to Western governments, the MH-17 tragedy had served its purpose. There was no political dividend in continuing to flog the proverbial dead horse.
The Perpetual Siren Call of Realpolitik
As brutal as it sounds, the Australian government’s priority was not finding closure for the victims’ families, determining the real cause of the tragedy, or ensuring as far as is possible those responsible faced justice, and it would appear that the Netherlands is no different in this respect.
In response to the additional controversy over the release of a report on the investigation and as to who would actually get to see it, the Dutch Prime Minister’s office issued a statement late November 2014 that said the following, which wasn’t much in words, but spoke volumes in meaning: “….the benefits of disclosing information about the MH17 investigation were outweighed by the risk of damage to the Dutch state’s relations to other states and world bodies.”
Although no one has yet coughed up hard-core evidence against the Kremlin (including it would seem most key figures in the U.S. intelligence community), the Western powers led by Washington have flagrantly exploited the disaster in order to bolster their propaganda campaign against Russia. This is, after all, the Washington Way. Within the geopolitical realm though and in the final analysis, the perpetual siren call of realpolitik dictates that there are more often than not bigger fish to fry.
Moreover, with the possible exception of the consideration the Russian separatists did shoot down the airliner deliberately and did so at the Kremlin’s instigation (a scenario that no one takes seriously), regardless of what happened and who was responsible for the disaster, the Americans themselves have to shoulder most if not all the blame for this lamentable, avoidable tragedy. Their track record of “regime change” is one that is well documented, with the commensurate blowback from such interventions constituting a narrative deep, wide and long enough to justify its own unique classification and index number within the Dewey library catalogue system.
In this context then the MH-17 tragedy appears to be the direct outcome of another of those interventions, collateral damage as a direct consequence of playing the Great Game in the relentless pursuit of empire. For that matter, Ukraine itself may also be destined to take a back seat in the Great Game going forward. This observation was underscored by Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times recently, wherein he reports on an apparent thaw in the U.S.–Russia relationship, one instigated by America.
As for the “60 Minutes” folks, they may or may not have had the best intentions in their fearless efforts to uncover the truth. And they may or may not have covered all the bases and considered all the relevant facts, evidence and issues in delivering their final verdict. If they haven’t then, this would not be the first time by any stretch one of the MSM’s flagship brands has been caught short and found wanting in any or all of the above criteria.
As far as the “60 Minutes” brand itself is concerned, in this respect we only have to recall “Rathergate”. This referred to the Dan Rather imbroglio in 2004 resulting from revelations about George W. Bush’s National Guard duty in the lead-up to the presidential election of that year, “revelations” which were based in part on questionable documents. The botched story it should be remembered culminated in the veteran newsman’s downfall, along with the firing of several lesser known colleagues.
In concluding then, for the moment and for the sake of argument, let’s give the “60 Minutes” crew the benefit of the doubt. They may have approached their investigation with an open mind from the start and then even genuinely believed when they went to air the program they were on the right track. Yet such was the nature of this story that that in the final analysis was never going to be enough. Their findings had to be more than convincing, even more than conclusive; they had to be bulletproof.
For his part Robert Parry has raised sufficient doubts, enough to render their findings significantly less than conclusive if not indeed less than credible. It is difficult then to accept that this high-wire adventure in investigative journalism had less to do with arriving at a truth or reality that most of us could get our heads around. It was more about reinforcing an official narrative – one that has never been explained or evidenced satisfactorily by those who were best positioned, and upon whom it was always incumbent, to do so – and more to do with journalistic one-upmanship, MSM grandstanding and brand refurbishment.
And judging by the singular lack of interest from other MSM outlets in taking up the “60 Minutes” story, even their own colleagues apparently aren’t that convinced they in fact, did get it right. Until and unless this happens, Messrs Usher and Rice and their crew it seems will have two options, neither of which one imagines would be very palatable for Brand “60 Minutes.” They can dig in their heels, “maintain the rage” on their Pat Malone, or stop “mentioning the war.”
Doubtless though, it will be fascinating to see which path they take going forward. Tick, tock!… Tick tock!.. Tick tock!…
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on May 12th, responding to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s assertions that Ukraine will retake Crimea and will conquer Donbass:
“I have not had a chance – I have not read the speech. I haven’t seen any context. I have simply heard about it in the course of today. But if indeed President Poroshenko is advocating an engagement in a forceful effort at this time, we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy. And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be.”
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, as communicated by the U.S. State Department’s Press Office on May 15th, reiterating Poroshenko’s view:
“Assistant Secretary Nuland’s ongoing visit to Kyiv and her discussions with Prime Minister [Arseniy] Yatseniuk and President [Petro] Poroshenko reaffirm the United States’ full and unbreakable support for Ukraine’s government, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and reiterate our deep commitment to a single Ukrainian nation, including Crimea, and all the other regions of Ukraine.”
Will John Kerry reprimand his subordinate for her contradicting what he, her boss, had said three days earlier? If not, then will President Barack Obama fire his Secretary of State John Kerry? If not, then will Victoria Nuland be fired? If not, then who is to trust anything that comes from the U.S. State Department, when the Secretary of State can be contradicted three days later by his subordinate, and both remain in their respective jobs?
Republicans are already preparing to weaken Kerry over this. The far-right news-site Frontpage Mag headlined on May 21st, John Kerry’s Seven Hours of Weakness in Russia, and condemned the “attempt by Kerry to re-set the ‘re-set’ button [on U.S. policy toward Russia] first pushed by his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.” The special subject of their ire: “The promise of ‘rolling back’ the mild sanctions regime the West imposed on Russia on account of Putin’s annexation of Crimea and support of separatist rebels was bandied about, if only Russia would behave in the future.” But winning changes in behavior is what international diplomacy is supposed to be all about — otherwise the State Department wouldn’t even be needed, and only the Pentagon would handle America’s foreign relations.
If Victoria Nuland stays in her job, then John Kerry will be neutered even if he’s not fired.
The only person with the power to fire Nuland is actually U.S. President Barack Obama. Perhaps the request for him to do that is already on his desk. If it’s not, then Kerry’s job is in jeopardy, because his diplomatic efforts can be obliterated by a subordinate and that subordinate will suffer no penalty for doing this. Nobody then would respect anything that the U.S. Secretary of State says, because it wouldn’t necessarily represent the President’s policies. If the Secretary of State isn’t backed up by the President, then the Secretary of State has no real power at all.
The Ukrainian Parliament has approved new regulations on martial law, which among other things allows for extrajudicial detention and relocation of Russian citizens in the country.
The law was approved by 254 deputies out of 322. It regulates how martial law can be declared in Ukraine and the changes to legal procedures it brings.
These changes include “forced relocation of the citizens of a foreign country who threaten or undertake aggression towards Ukraine,” the law’s memorandum states as cited by TASS. The parliament declared Russia an aggressor on January 27 by adopting a declaration to that end.
Apart from the relocation of foreign citizens, martial law will allow Ukrainian authorities to confiscate private property, regulate mass media, prohibit any rallies, marches and other mass gatherings and initiate the legal process of banning any political party or mass media deemed “acting against Ukraine’s independence.”
It also entails labor conscription for all able-bodied Ukrainians not currently in the army and a possible curfew. In areas of actual fighting, the role of local authorities is passed on to the military command.
This is the new version of the law, which was preliminarily approved on April 9.
For martial law to take hold, the parliament has to approve a corresponding ruling by the Ukrainian president. It can be declared in the whole country or selected regions.
Greece has been invited by Russia to become the sixth member of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB). The $100 billion NDB is expected to compete with Western dominance and become one of the key lending institutions.
The invitation was made by Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak on Monday during a phone conversation with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, according to a statement on Greece’s Syriza party website. Tsipras thanked Storchak, who’s currently a representative of the BRICS Bank for the invitation, and said Greece was interested in the offer.
“The Prime Minister thanked Storchak and said he was pleasantly surprised by the invitation for Greece to be the sixth member of the BRICS Development Bank. Tsipras said Greece is interested in the offer, and promised to thoroughly examine it. He will have a chance to discuss the invitation with the other BRICS leaders during the 2015 International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg,” the statement said.
During the 6th BRICS summit in Fortaleza in June 2014 the members agreed to forge ahead with the $100 billion NDB, as well as a reserve currency pool worth over another $100 billion. In March this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified the NDB.
The new bank is expected to challenge the two major Western-led institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It will finance infrastructure projects in the BRICS countries and across other developing countries and is expected to start functioning by the end of 2015, with the headquarters in Shanghai.
Russia and Greece have been strengthening economic cooperation, as both countries have their own issues. While Russia is stuck in a so-called ‘sanctions war’ with the EU and the US, Greece is struggling to repay its multibillion euro debt to the troika of international lenders – the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission.
Greece is trying to find a compromise with its international creditors to have a further €7.2 billion bailout unlocked. So far Athens has been settling its IMF repayments on time. The country started repaying €750 million in debt interest Monday, but Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis warned Greece’s finances are “a terribly urgent issue,” and the country could default by next month if no proper measures are taken.
Greece’s government has agreed a number of strategic deals with Russia during Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ visit to Moscow in April, including participation in the Turkish Stream project that’ll deliver Russian gas to Europe via Greece.
It was rumored Russia was ready to help Athens, but President Putin said Greece hasn’t formally asked Moscow for help. Instead of direct financial assistance Russia could help out by buying Greek state assets in privatization sales, or in other investment projects, the President said in April.