The Iraqi government, formed in 2003 after Saddam Hussein’s regime had been overthrown by the US invasion, was fully controlled by “inspectors” from the United States and its allies, a former Iraqi Defense Minister, Hazem Shaalan, told RT.
“I was not independent in my ministry,” Shaalan said. “Inside the ministry, there were American inspectors in each department. There were also the British and Australians. There was not a single one department in the ministry, where there would be no inspectors.”
The former defense minister also revealed that the first post-Saddam Iraqi government was not elected but instead was fully appointed by Washington.
Interim Prime Minister of Iraq Ayad Allawi, who held office from 2003 to 2005, was “among the first to be appointed [by the US]. We were all appointed by Americans, by [Lewis Paul ] Bremer [top civilian administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq]. The first [post-Saddam] Iraqi government was appointed directly by Bremer,” Shaalan said adding that “no elections were held.”
The former minister also emphasized that all decisions taken by the prime minister at the time required approval by US authorities. At the same time, this government was protected by the US authorities, he added.
“Those, who were working with Americans, were relieved from responsibility for any faults in their work,” Shaalan said during the interview.
According to Shaalan, the US did not inform the Iraqi government of the Iraqi citizens who had been taken to Iraq’s prisons and tortured by US forces. “We were not told about this. We were not even allowed to come to the prisons without special permission from the US authorities,” he said.
The former Iraqi defense minister also stressed that the US presence in Iraq brought no stability and no security as well as no prosperity and well-being to the country.
Shaalan said at first Iraqis were excited by the idea of Americans helping them build democracy.
“However, we were shocked, when total destruction began – destruction of infrastructure, of buildings, etc. When we asked Americans, why they do that, we were told that, after destruction, there will be rebuilding. “We will rebuild everything and it will be better than before,” they said. Those were the promises. They have never been fulfilled,” the former defense minister told RT.
The US and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003 claiming that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, although no such weapon have since been found. The forces which toppled Hussein’s regime provoked a prolonged conflict in Iraq involving sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis as well as a lengthy insurgency against the US and its coalition forces.
The US forces officially withdrew from Iraq in 2011, although the US still had a significant military contingent of more than 20,000 personnel in the country, including the US Marine Embassy Guards and between 4,000 and 5,000 private military contractors.
The US became re-involved in 2014as the head of the international coalition fighting Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group which gained a foothold in the northern regions of the country.
From ministerial offices to barricades on the streets, Europe is in open revolt against anti-Russian sanctions which have cost workers and businesses millions of jobs and earnings. Granted, the contentious issues are wider than anti-Russian sanctions. However, the latter are entwined with growing popular discontent across the EU.
Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is among the latest high-profile politicians to have come out against the sanctions stand-off between the European Union and Russia.
At stake is not just a crisis in the economy, of which the anti-Russian sanctions are symptomatic. It is further manifesting in a political crisis that is challenging the very legitimacy of EU governments and the bloc’s institutional existence. The issue is not so much about merely trying to normalize EU-Russian relations. But rather more about preserving the EU from an existential public backlash against anti-democratic and discredited authorities.
Gabriel, who also serves as Germany’s economy minister, said that relations between the EU and Moscow must be quickly normalized. And he called for the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed since early 2014 as a result of the dubious Ukraine conflict. The EU followed Washington’s policy of slapping sanctions on Russia after accusing Moscow of «annexing» Crimea and interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs. The charges against Russia are tenuous at best and are far removed from the mundane pressing concerns of ordinary EU citizens, who are being made to bear a heavy economic price for a stand-off that seems unduly politicized, if not wholly unwarranted.
Russia responded to the sweeping sanctions by implementing counter-measures banning exports from the EU and the US. The stand-off has hit the European economies hardest, with the Austrian Institute of Economic Research estimating that the trade war will cost the EU over €100 billion in business and up to 2.5 million in jobs. By contrast, the US has scarcely felt a pinch from the trade impasse.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy with the largest trade links to Russia, has suffered most from the sanctions rift. Up to 30,000 German businesses are invested in Russia, amounting to as many as half a million jobs in danger and €30 billion in lost revenues, according to the Austrian Institute of Economic Research.
In one German state alone, Saxony-Anhalt, the local economy minister Jorg Felgner says that exports to Russia have been slashed by 40 per cent, with the loss of €200 million to his state. Felgner is among the growing chorus of EU voices who are calling for the anti-Russian sanctions to be lifted when the EU convenes in July to decide on whether to extend its embargo or not.
The EU has been reviewing its sanctions policy on Russia every six months since 2014. To extend the measures, a unanimous decision is required among all 28 member states. It looks increasingly unlikely that the EU will maintain its hitherto unanimity. It can be safely assumed that if Brussels were to end the sanctions, then Moscow will respond in kind to promptly resume normal trade with the bloc.
In addition to the country’s vice chancellor, Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also expressed disquiet with the ongoing EU-Russian tensions stemming from the sanctions. Steinmeier noted that «resistance to anti-Russian sanctions is growing across the EU».
He also reiterated dismay over a fundamental contradiction in EU policy objectives. «How can we expect Russia’s help in solving the Syrian crisis while at the same time imposing economic sanctions on Russia?» asked Steinmeier.
It’s not just Germany that is growing leery with the deterioration in relations with Russia. Hungary and Italy, which have also strong historic trade ties with Russia, are increasingly opposed to the EU’s policy towards Moscow, according to a recent Newsweek report.
Added to the maligned mix is Greece. The country’s six-year economic crisis has been greatly exacerbated by the loss of a once-bustling agricultural export business to Russia. The country’s finance minister Dimitrios Mardas attributed major losses specifically to the anti-Russian sanctions, which have piled on fiscal deficits to the teetering Greek economy. Greece is no isolated problem. It threatens to undermine the whole EU from its chronic bankruptcy.
In France, the National Assembly’s Lower House voted last week by 55 to 44 votes to end the EU sanctions on Russia. The vote is non-binding on the government of President Francois Hollande. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the growing popular opposition to what is widely seen as a self-defeating policy of trade antagonism with Russia.
The cancellation last year by the Hollande government of the Mistral dual helicopter-ship contract with Moscow epitomizes the self-inflicted pain on French workers. The cancellation – cajoled by Washington – cost the French government revenues of over €1.5 billion and has put thousands of shipyard jobs at risk. Paris claims to have since directed the ships’ order to Egypt, but that remains doubtful.
The economic losses from anti-Russian sanctions have rebounded severely on French farmers too. Dairy, meat, vegetable and fruit exports to the once lucrative Russian market have been pummeled. Hollande recently vowed to release €500 million in state aid to placate angry farmers. The absurdity is not lost on the French agricultural sector that such state handouts would not be necessary if the Hollande government hadn’t sabotaged Russian markets in the first place by following US hostility towards Moscow, as in the case of the Mistral fiasco.
France’s economic problems, as with the rest of Europe, are not entirely related to the downturn in relations with Russia. But there seems little doubt that the issues intersect and are compounded. And the public knows that.
Hollande – the most unpopular French president since the Second World War – is ramming through draconian labor reforms. The president and his truculent prime minister Manuel Valls claim that the retrenchment of workers’ rights will boost the economy and reduce France’s soaring unemployment rate of 10 per cent nationally and 25 per among French youth.
In opposition to the French government’s deeply unpopular assault on workers’ rights, the country is to observe nationwide strikes this week. The protests have been going on now for several months and seem set to escalate, as Hollande’s administration digs its heels in and refuses to relent.
Among students and farmers joining France’s nationwide strike are workers in the transport sectors of road haulage, rail, shipping and airports. With exports to Russia slashed due to the French government-backing of EU sanctions, the transport sectors are among the hardest hit. The Hollande government’s attempt to force through labor cuts, purportedly to reinvigorate the economy, is seen as it trying to offload responsibility for economic woes on to workers and businesses. If Hollande did not pick a fight with Russia – at Washington’s goading – then the country’s economy wouldn’t be under such duress.
Across Europe, the popular revolt against economic austerity is bound up with the EU’s self-defeating sanctions on Russia. And it is leading to a crisis of authority among EU governments who are held with increasing disdain by their citizens. More enlightened political leaders like Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are obviously aware of the geopolitical connection that citizens are making.
As Europe’s economic crisis deepens, the policy of anti-Russian sanctions is tantamount to the EU cutting off its nose to spite its face. The growing public disaffection is also fueling the electoral rise of anti-EU political parties in Germany, France, Britain, Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and other member states.
Mainstream EU parties like the ruling coalition government in Berlin realize that the EU’s trade war with Russia is simply becoming untenable. It is an ideologically driven and dubious antagonism that the EU can ill-afford. That policy speaks to EU citizens of a political leadership that is losing legitimacy from its fundamentally wrongheaded and anti-democratic governance. As well as from slavish pandering to American hegemonic ambitions.
Brussels, in following Washington’s hostility to Moscow, is inflicting further economic pain on the bloc’s 500 million citizens. Something has to give way if Europe is not to implode, or explode, from popular fury. Normalizing relations with Russia is not the whole solution to Europe’s economic and political crises. But such a move would certainly alleviate. And is long overdue.
EU governments are thus facing a stark choice. Are they to continue on the path of destruction at Washington’s reckless behest, or can they find an independent policy of pursuing mutual relations with Russia? Undoing the crass anti-Russian sanctions is taking on an urgency – before such a policy leads to the undoing of the EU itself.
The cops charged in the death of Freddie Gray had another good day in a Baltimore courtroom, on Monday, when one of the six officers was found not guilty of second degree assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment. Officer Edward Nero had opted not to undergo a trial by jury, so the case was decided by a Black circuit court judge, Barry Williams. The trial of another cop, William Porter, ended in a mistrial back in December when the jury deadlocked on all four counts. If Officer Porter is tried again, it will be after the trials of all the other cops are completed.
But Officer Nero is home free, because Judge Williams ruled that there was “no evidence that the cop intended for a crime to occur.” Judge Williams was affirming the triple legal standard that exists in American law: one standard for cops, another for civilians in general, and no reliable expectation of justice at all for Black people.
Officer Nero was one of the cops that arrested Freddie Gray, dragged his limping body to a police transport wagon, and then failed to secure him with a seatbelt. Gray was given a wild ride through the streets of Baltimore, his handcuffed body crashing into the sides and front of the vehicle, fatally severing his spine.
Lawlessness Begins with the Lawmen
Freddie Gray’s only offense was to run away after making eye contact with a police supervisor – which is not a crime in anybody’s law book. But, as my colleague Bruce Dixon often says, cops are like hounds, and Black people are treated like rabbits, and when a rabbit runs away from the hounds they will chase it down and tear it apart.
So, the hounds are on trial in Baltimore. The prosecution maintains that the cops had no right to arrest and move Freddie Gray – that this amounted to second degree assault on his person. In her closing arguments, deputy state’s attorney Janice Bledsoe said “people get jacked up in the city all the time” by cops, and such behavior must be punished. But, the judge seemed to think it would be ridiculous to treat every arrest as criminal just because there were no grounds for arrest. Officer Nero’s lawyer agreed, saying it didn’t make any difference if the cops acted illegally in arresting Freddie Gray. “Wrong or right isn’t the standard,” said the cop’s attorney. “The standard is, were they so wrong that it was unreasonable?”
So, cops have to be more than just guilty of breaking the law; they must be “unreasonably” guilty – whatever that is.
Warren Brown, a defense lawyer who observed the proceedings, said: “If you’re going to go back and charge every police officer whose arrest was determined to be illegal with assault, or every search that’s deemed to be absent probable cause, [then] you’re going to indict the entire police force.”
Sounds good to me. Indict them all, and empower the people to form a security force that respects, and is answerable to, the community it serves. But, of course, it would be “unreasonable” for Black people to expect anything that smacks of justice in America.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
“Haibatullah Akhundzada has been appointed as the new leader of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) after a unanimous agreement in the shura (supreme council), and all the members of shura pledged allegiance to him,” the insurgents said in a statement.
It added that Sirajuddin Haqqani, an implacable foe of US forces, and Mullah Yakoub, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, were appointed his deputies.
Haibatullah was one of two deputies under Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike on Saturday, the first known American assault on a top Afghan Taliban leader on Pakistani soil.
Mansour’s killing is a major blow to the militant movement just nine months after he was formally appointed leader following a bitter power struggle, and sent shockwaves through the leadership.
Haibatullah’s appointment comes after the Taliban’s supreme council held emergency meetings that began Sunday in southwest Pakistan to find a unifying figure for the leadership post.
Taliban sources told AFP the supreme council members were lying low and constantly changing the venue of their meetings to avoid new potential air strikes.
Caracas – Russia’s Foreign Ministry has spoken out against “outside” efforts to destabilise Venezuela, warning against the consequences of imposing “colour scenarios” on the South American nation.
On Monday, Russian news agency Tass and Sputnik International reported that Russia’s Foreign Ministry had released an official statement addressing the current situation in Venezuela.
“The upsurge of tensions in Venezuela is being fed from outside,” asserted the Foreign Ministry statement.
“We are confident that a political solution to Venezuelan problems is to be found by the Venezuelan people who have elected its legitimate authorities… Destructive interference from outside is inadmissible,” it continued.
The South American country has been suffering from a worsening economic crisis for the past two years and is currently locked in a political stand-off between the executive branch and the opposition controlled legislature.
In firm language, the declaration also reminded other global powers that “no-one has the right to impose ‘color scenarios’ on Venezuela, referring to the outside financing of “proxy” organisations aimed at destabilising the national government.
Russia also warned that current tensions in Venezuela risk spilling over into open conflict on the nation’s streets, bringing “serious consequences” for the rest of the region.
Moscow’s remarks come as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) begins to take tentative steps towards opening up negotiations between Venezuela’s two warring political factions: the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro, and the rightwing political coalition, the MUD, which currently controls the National Assembly.
However, escalating rumours of a possible coup against the national government in recent weeks are threatening to dampen hopes of a rapprochement.
The MUD has pledged to remove Maduro through a variety of “constitutional” means since taking hold of the legislature last December.
Nonetheless, Russia said it backed a UNASUR negotiated solution to the crisis and asked both sides to “cool down” their emotions. It also confirmed it would be open to participating in negotiation efforts in Venezuela if requested.
“We are confident that the main challenge facing Venezuela at the moment is to find realistic ways out of the economic crisis, improve the social situation of broad layers of the population… It is obvious that this is possible only in conditions of internal political tranquility,” asserted the foreign ministry declaration.
Although Moscow didn’t name the “outside” influences which it cites as exacerbating tensions in Venezuela, it is possible that the US has caught the Kremlin’s eye.
Just last week, Russia’s Vice-minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergéi Ryabkov, said that his government believed that Washington was intensifying its attempts to directly “interfere” in Latin American affairs to the detriment of the region.
He cited a swing to the right in Argentina’s government, as well as the recent controversial impeachment of Brazil’s left leaning president, Dilma Rousseff, as examples.
Russia has not and will not get into discussions on criteria to lift sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
The West has introduced several rounds of sanctions against Russia since 2014, accusing Moscow of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs and fueling the conflict in the southeast of Ukraine, however Russia denies the allegations and has responded to the restrictive measures with a food embargo.
“As for the future of these restrictions, this question should be directed to those who initiated the sanctions spiral. We have not and will not discuss any conditions or criteria for lifting these restrictive measures,” Lavrov told Hungary’s Magyar Nemzet newspaper.
“The European Union has linked this to Russia fulfilling the Minsk agreements,” the minister said. “Such a connection is absurd, because our country, as is well known, is not party to the conflict in Ukraine. Such a stance only encourages Kiev to sabotage the Minsk measures without any consequences.”
Unilateral Sanctions Unable to Force Russia to Sacrifice National Interests
Russia will not give up on pursuing its national interests due to attempts to pressure it through unilateral sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
“It is clear that attempts to pressure Russia through unilateral sanctions will not force us to abandon our principled line or to sacrifice our national interests,” Lavrov told Hungary’s Magyar Nemzet newspaper.
Hillary Clinton violated federal records rules by never obtaining permission to conduct official business on private email server during her tenure as secretary state, a State Department audit concluded.
The report from the State Department’s inspector general say mentions “longstanding, systemic weaknesses” in the agency’s communications even before Clinton took office there, but it singles her out as having been a particularly bad offender for her exclusive use of private, unsecured email.
“Secretary Clinton had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business with their offices, who in turn would have attempted to provide her with approved and secured means that met her business needs” says the audit, which was first obtained by Politico.
“At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department issues before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report continued.
The 78-page report is the culmination of a review prompted by last year’s revelations that Hillary Clinton conducted official business on a private email server, rather than the secured government servers that officials are expected to use, during her four years in the Obama administration.
The inspector general states that its findings are based on interviews with Secretary of State John Kerry, and predecessors Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and Madeleine Albright.
Clinton and her deputies, including Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, declined the inspector general’s request for interviews, Politico reported.
The report said that State Department workers are required to use “agency-authorized information systems to conduct normal day-to-day operations” because the use of other systems “creates significant security risks.”
The inspector general went on to recommend that the State Department remind employees that the use of personal email accounts to conduct official business is “discouraged in most circumstances,” and improved policies to promote compliance by all employees – including the secretary of state. The State Department’s management concurred with these recommendations.
“While people were aware of her use of personal email, no one had a full and complete understanding of the extent,” said the State Department’s representative Mark Toner. “We acknowledge that we need to do a better job with our record keeping.”
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon responded to the report on Wednesday, saying that the report actually showed that Clinton’s practices were consistent with previous secretaries of state.
“[A]s this report makes clear, Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email was not was not unique, and she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records,” Fallon said.
Clinton herself made the same argument in a March debate. However, Politifact found that statement to be “mostly false.”
However, the State Department has apparently made progress in its record keeping systems.
“Any email that [Secretary Kerry] sends is automatically copied and saved automatically,” the agency’s Deputy Spokesman said at a press briefing. “This automatic archiving approach does comply with the Federal Records Act.”
The audit is only one part of a much larger controversy. Clinton, who is the likely Democratic presidential nominee, is currently under investigation by the FBI for potentially putting highly sensitive information at risk, a fact that has become an important talking point in the election.
Clinton has contended that since most of her emails were sent to other people in the state department, she was complying with the federal law requiring the preservation of government records.
Though the FBI’s investigation is still ongoing, the inspector general’s audit casts doubt on this defense, saying that sending emails to other State Department accounts “is not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a federal record.”
Clinton’s use of a private email account came to light in 2013, when a hacker going by the name of Guccifer accessed the email account of her aide Sydney Blumenthal. The hacker, whose real name is Marcel Lazar, pleaded guilty to various hacking-related offenses on Wednesday.
President Obama heads to Japan this week for an historic visit to Hiroshima, site of the world’s first use of a nuclear weapon, and one of the United States’ most enduring shameful acts. The corporate media has hailed the visit as an important step in strengthening bilateral relations between the US and Japan. Indeed, it certainly is that as the US seeks to reassert its hegemony in an Asia-Pacific region increasingly being seen as the sphere of influence of China.
However, Obama’s arrival in Japan also highlights the deeply hypocritical and cynical attitudes of US policymakers, and President Obama himself, when it comes to the relevant issues. He is not expected to formally apologize for the needless slaughter of more than 200,000 Japanese citizens (mostly civilians), nor is he going to address the lingering policy-related effects of the war such as the highly unpopular US military occupation of Okinawa. In fact, it seems Obama is unlikely to touch on anything of substance. But there are indeed numerous subjects which merit close scrutiny.
First and foremost, one must consider the fact that for 70 years the United States has maintained a permanent military presence in Japan, one which is deeply reviled by the majority of the people of Japan, especially the citizens of Okinawa who regularly and continuously protest the US occupation. And while Obama and his counterpart, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will discuss the continued friendship and partnership between the two countries, the reality is that it remains a master-client relationship. There will likely be much discussion of past, present, and future, without any admission of guilt either on the side of the US for its horrific war crimes nor by Japan for its unrestrained aggression against China, Korea, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”
Interestingly, the question of nuclear weapons will likely also not be addressed in a substantive way. There may indeed be some discussion of the subject in general terms, but it will be veiled in the typically flowery, but utterly vacuous, Obama rhetoric. Given the opportunity, an intrepid reporter might venture to ask the President why, despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples [and] vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons,” he has presided over an administration that will spend more than $1 trillion upgrading, modernizing, and expanding the US nuclear arsenal.
Perhaps even more uncomfortable might be a question about why the allegedly anti-nuclear president who waxed poetic about disarmament as a student at Columbia University has spent two terms in office providing tens of billions in aid to nuclear-armed Israel, raising the amount of US aid to Tel Aviv to historic levels. In 2014, the Obama administration also enthusiastically signed a new nuclear deal with the UK which, according to Obama himself, “intends to continue to maintain viable nuclear forces into the foreseeable future… [America needed to aid Britain] in maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent.” So much for disarmament.
And while Obama and his coterie of spin doctors shape his anti-nuclear legacy with talk of a nuclear deal with Iran – a country that has no nuclear weapons – the cynicism is impossible to ignore. Obama has in fact done everything to promote nuclear proliferation including the absolutely insane new US missile “defense” system in Eastern Europe which, almost by definition, forces Russia to upgrade and expand its own arsenal, including its nuclear stockpile (still the largest in the world) as a countermeasure.
And then there’s the irradiated elephant in the room: Fukushima. The ongoing cover-up of what’s really happening in Fukushima lurks in the background of all discussion about nuclear issues and Japan. No one should hold their breath for even a whisper about this still unfolding environmental catastrophe which the Japanese government has gone to great lengths to dump down the memory hole.
Rather than formally apologizing to the Japanese people for the grave crimes of the US Government, Obama will instead frame his position as “looking forward, not backward,” a hollow platitude that calls to mind the utterly reprehensible decision by Obama not to investigate or prosecute the Bush administration criminals involved in torture. Rather than a heartfelt expression of regret, Obama offers the Trans-Pacific Partnership and an escalation of tensions with China. Rather than working for peace as one might expect of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Obama instead will continue to champion his “pivot to Asia” strategy which has yielded little in terms of progress but much in terms of US military presence.
President Obama’s visit to Japan, like his allegedly great successes in Iran and Cuba, will change nothing. Obama will say a few words, then leave Japan. He’ll soon leave office with a still more dangerous world than when he entered: more nukes, more wars, more destruction. And this from our Peace Prize President.
Eric Draitser can be reached at email@example.com.
Conflicting with a prior industry study, a new analysis claims 96 nuclear facilities in the US are less safe than reported, citing risks such as terrorism and sabotage. The study says there remain lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster.
Neglect of the risks posed by used reactor fuel, or spent nuclear fuel, contained in 96 aboveground, aquamarine pools could cost the US economy $700 billion, cause cancer in tens of thousands of people as well as compel the relocation of some 3.5 million people from an area larger than New Jersey, a study released May 20 finds.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s study, ‘Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of US Nuclear Plants,’ is the second installment of a two-part study ordered by Congress on the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. It not only cites, but also outright challenges a 2014 study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US industry’s regulator and enforcer of safety standards.
The spent fuel, The Academies’ study recommends, is safer in dry casks rather than pools, because of the risk of leaks, drawing water away from the irradiated nuclear rods. An accident, terrorist attack or malicious employee all pose greater dangers to the pools, the study says.
Aside from calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to offer a better evaluation of the health risks posed, The Academies study conducted by 17 engineers, nuclear physicists and other scientists demands the commission fulfill a 10-year-old promise to put together an impartial review of the surveillance and security policies on spent nuclear fuel.
“Even with the recommendations that the Academies’ board has put together,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Scott Burnell responded, “we continue to conclude that spent fuel is being stored safely and securely in the US.”
“Nothing in the report causes immediate concern,” Burnell added, although the commission is planning a more formal follow-up later this year, according to The Center for Public Integrity.
Congress felt compelled to fund the study on Japan’s natural-turned-nuclear disaster to help prevent a similar accident from occurring in the US. On March 11, 2011, the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima was thrashed by an earthquake and tsunami, leaving three reactors without power or coolants, which resulted in their radioactive cores melting down.
Pure luck kept the disaster from becoming even worse, The Acadamies found. Instead of Daiichi’s highly radioactive rods being exposed to oxygen, which would have sent over 13 million people packing from as far as 177 miles south in Tokyo, a leak happened to be situated between a fuel rod pool and a reactor core, which sent just enough coolant to keep the vulnerable rods from rising above the water. In the end, 470,000 people were evacuated and the still ongoing cleanup is estimated to cost about $93 billion.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 2014 study put the highest odds of an earthquake happening near spent fuel storage at one in 10 million years, boasting that “spent fuel pools are likely to withstand severe earthquakes without leaking,” while the odds of a terrorist attack or internal subversion were deemed incalculable and left out of any risk assessment.
Calling that cost-benefit analysis “deeply flawed,” The Academies panel member Frank von Hippel, also an emeritus professor and senior research physicist at Princeton University, complained that the commission’s study also left out the impact on property contamination in a 50-mile radius of an accident, tourism rates and the economy, The Center for Public Integrity reported.
The new analysis also calls for new officially designated risk assessments of safety and financial impacts at the federal level as well as what improvements aboveground dry casks may bring compared to pools. The latter is estimated to cost upwards of $4 billion by the industry.
At a news conference Tuesday, I asked Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and André Carson (D-Ind.) about Hillary Clinton’s having returned money from Muslims and refusing to meet with Arab and Muslim groups in her 2000 Senate run.
Rep. Ellison indicated he didn’t know about the controversy and — while stressing his backing for Sen. Bernie Sanders, argued that Clinton was someone who has done outreach to the Muslim community. Carson lauded her as the “most traveled” secretary of state.
Ellison and Carson, Congress’ only Muslim members, spoke at the at National Press Club to discuss “Islamophobia and Hateful Rhetoric Directed At Muslims.” [See video of their response, full video (33:00) and transcript below.]
Their opening remarks focused on Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Peter King — all Republicans.
I had gone into the event wanting to question the manner in which they spoke — or declined to speak — about U.S. foreign policy. More on that later.
But, their emphasis on Republican transgressions, some going back to previous election cycles, I thought it important to raise the issue of Clinton’s actions and asked if there wasn’t anti-Muslim sentiment in the Democratic Party as well.
I cited a recent piece by Rania Khalek, in which she writes:
Back in 2000, during a heated U.S. Senate race in New York, Clinton came under attack for accepting political contributions from Muslim groups whose members were targets of a smear campaign generated by one of the Islamophobia industry’s most discredited operatives.
Without hesitation, Clinton condemned her Muslim supporters, returned their donations and refused to meet with Arab and Muslim Americans for the remainder of her campaign…
Ellison said: “I’m not aware of the incident. … When she came to Minnesota she specifically reached out to the Muslim community and had a sit down and talked about anti-Muslim hate. … I also know that years ago when she was Secretary of State, the Black Caucus had a meeting with her and she had recently appointed a special envoy to Muslim communities, you know — Farah Pandith — and she sat Andre and I right next to Farah because she wanted to make sure we were talking and comparing notes.”
Presuming he was being forthright, it says something about Ellison’s information flow that he would not have been aware of the controversy.
He mentioned Farah Pandith. According to her bio at the Kennedy School of Government, “Special Representative Pandith served as the Director for Middle East Regional Initiatives for the National Security Council from December 2004 to February 2007, where she was responsible for coordinating U.S. policy on ‘Muslim World’ Outreach and the Broader Middle East North Africa initiative.”
Pandith reported to Elliot Abrams at the Bush National Security Council, who is well known for his longtime backing of U.S. wars in the Mideast and Latin America.
Ellison stated that Clinton has “not in any way contributed to anti-Muslim hate. In fact Huma Abedin is one of her closest aides and Huma has been the target of anti-Muslim hate herself.”
Ellison’s defense of Clinton — and by extension the Democratic Party, since I specifically asked about that, was noteworthy. At another point in the event, he talked about how every community was guilty of bigotry to some extent.
Carson, who supports Clinton over Sanders, stated that while Clinton was recently in Indianapolis, “We helped to ensure that Muslims were not only there, they were part of the process. And there were a group of Syrian-Americans who had a moment with Secretary Clinton. … She is the most traveled Secretary of state in U.S. history. … Whenever I go to embassies that have Muslim ambassadors they talk about the bridge building that was done under her leadership as Secretary of State. … [Clinton] has a special sensitivity as it relates to issues impacting the Muslim community. As it relates to unwanted surveillance … Once she becomes president you will see Muslims in very important positions in her cabinet.”
It seems at best incredibly paltry: “Part of the process.” Syrian-Americans “had a moment.” “A moment” to discuss the fate of their country of origin. Which Syrian-Americans? Doubtlessly, there are some who want more U.S. intervention of the sort that brought disaster to Libya — which Clinton oversaw and Ellison himself backed at the time. Glen Ford has noted that Ellison has also backed a “no fly” zone in Syria.
Though she’s at times criticized Republicans for scapegoating Muslims, CNN reported: “Clinton calls for more surveillance, police after Brussels attacks.”
I actually asked the first question after their opening remarks. I had hoped that I’d get another question later about U.S. foreign policy after they had staked out their positions on foreign policy in response to other questions. However, I did not get another question in.
The deeper issue is the manner in which the question of “Islamophobia” is being dealt with: It largely excludes discussion of U.S. foreign policy, the dehumanization of Muslim lives lost, especially in U.S. attacks.
At the event, Ellison stressed that most of the victims of Daesh [ISIL] were Muslims, which is of course true, but it leaves out that most of the victims of U.S. foreign policy are Muslims — and that U.S. foreign policy has helped foster Al-Qaeda and ISIS and other sectarian groups.
You have Carson talking about how Muslim officials in embassies — almost invariably of tyrannical regimes — speak fondly of Clinton. This seems at best a dubious badge of honor.
Rep. Carson spoke in his other remarks of being on the House Intelligence Committee. He also spoke of his time growing up and being critical of law enforcement. I’ve criticized anti-Muslim bias for over twenty years, but a tacit bargain seems to have been struck whereby Muslims are “tolerated” — so long as they do not seriously critique U.S. foreign policy, and those who go along with it most will clearly be rewarded most by those who control U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, the subtext of some of Carson’s remarks is that such Muslims will be rewarded with plum positions for their apologetics.
The tension here is critical. While some who have written about Islamophobia see a meaningful resolution in incorporation of Muslims into the West, this tends to ignore the incredible violence of U.S. foreign policy. For example, John Feffer, who I know and like personally, recently wrote “Sadiq Khan and the End of Islamophobia” about the recent mayoral race in London.
There is real danger of a line of thinking that in effect charts a course of Muslims being accepted in the West in a manner that neuters any meaningful crit of foreign policy. It’s a course that explicitly or implicitly folds in the Muslim community rather than using it as a messenger to meaningful open up the Western societies in terms of challenging and ending their aggressive foreign policies and bring about a more peaceful world.
In fact, this course is incredibly dangerous because it leads to the impression of having a global dialogue when none is actually taking place about the most critical issues of U.S. government violence.
As Arun Kundnani has argued: “The promise of the ‘war on terror’ was that we would kill them ‘over there’ so they would not kill us ‘over here.’ Hence mass violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Yemen, and Somalia — in the name of peace in the West. The ‘Authorization to Use Military Force’ that the U.S. Congress passed in the days after 9/11 already defined the whole world as a battlefield in the ‘war on terror’. President Obama continues to rely on the authorization to give his drone-killing program a veneer of legality. This is the old colonial formula of liberal values at home sustained by a hidden illiberalism in the periphery — where routine extra-judicial killing is normalized.”
The remarks of Malcolm X — whose birthday just passed — and his view of the course of African Americans in the U.S. is relevant: “They have a new gimmick every year. They’re going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: ‘Look how much progress we’re making. I’m in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I’m your spokesman, I’m your leader.’ While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education.”
Sam Husseini: You’ve mentioned Trump and Cruz and Carson. I think all the names that you mentioned are Republicans that you feel are guilty of some form of Islamophobia. Rania Khalek, an Arab-American writer recently had a piece recounting that in her 2000 run, Hillary Clinton — after there were allegations that she was taking quote-unquote Muslim money — returned the money and refused to meet with members of the Muslim-American and Arab community. How do you respond to something like that? Is the Democratic party itself clear of Islamophobic sentiment as well?
Keith Ellison: I can only speak on what I know about — and I’m a Bernie supporter. And I support Bernie running all the way through the election. And — but have to be honest and tell you I’m not aware of that, right?Husseini: You don’t know about this?
Ellison: Well I’m not aware of the incident. I’ll tell you what I’m aware of I know that when she came to Minneapolis, Minnesota — and this is just being fair and honest. When she came to Minnesota she specifically reached out to the Muslim community and had a sit down and talked about anti-Muslim hate. I know about that.
I also know that years ago when she was Secretary of State, the black caucus had a meeting with her and she had recently appointed a special envoy to Muslim communities, you know — Farah Pandith — and she sat Andre and I right next to Farah because she wanted to make sure we were talking and comparing notes.
Now, I don’t want to say something didn’t happen when I don’t know — when I don’t have information. But I can say that if that did happen there’s weight with her reaching out as well.
Again, I’m not trying to discredit anyone’s experience, I don’t have any information on it. But I can tell you she did some things and has not in any way contributed to anti-Muslim hate. In fact Huma Abedin is one of her closest aides and Huma has been the target of anti-Muslim hate herself and I have never sensed that Secretary Clinton is backing herself away from her association with Huma Abedin. So.
Again, I’m a Bernie guy. I’m standing up there — if you wanna talk who should be president I believe it’s Bernie Sanders, but fair’s fair and true’s true and she has no record that I’m aware of of anti-Muslim hate.
Andre Carson: As a Clinton guy (laughter)
Ellison: Did I mention that —?
Carson: As Keith stated, one of her chief advisers and closest confidants is Huma Abedin who is phenomenal. She’s a friend of mine. Secretary Clinton was in Indianapolis a few weeks ago. We helped to ensure that Muslims were not only there, they were part of the process. And there were a group of Syrian-Americans who had a moment with Secretary Clinton. If you look at her history as not only as first lady of Arkansas but first lady of the United States of America, and even Secretary of State. She is the most traveled Secretary of state in U.S. history. Let’s make that clear.
Whenever I go to embassies that have Muslim ambassadors they talk about the bridge building that was done under her leadership as Secretary of State. When I go to Muslim communities across the country and communities are divided — some are Feeling the Bern and some like me are climbing up that Hill. But they respect Secretary Clinton because she has a special sensitivity as it relates to issues impacting the Muslim community. As it relates to unwanted surveillance as it relates to outright discrimination. And I believe and we can talk about this later, that once she becomes president you will see Muslims in very important positions in her cabinet.
A newly posted video showing a glimpse of a Buk missile battery rolling down a highway in eastern Ukraine has sparked a flurry of renewed accusations blaming Russia for the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killing 298 people. But the “dash-cam video” actually adds little to the MH-17 whodunit mystery because it could also support a narrative blaming the Ukrainian military for the disaster.
The fleeting image of the missile battery and its accompanying vehicles, presumably containing an armed escort, seems to have been taken by a car heading west on H-21 highway in the town of Makiivka, as the convoy passed by heading east, according to the private intelligence firm Stratfor and the “citizen journalism” Web site, Bellingcat.
However, even assuming that this Buk battery was the one that fired the missile that destroyed MH-17, its location in the video is to the west of both the site where Almaz-Antey, the Russian Buk manufacturer, calculated the missile was fired, around the village of Zaroshchenskoye (then under Ukrainian government control), and the 320-square-kilometer zone where the Dutch Safety Board speculated the fateful rocket originated (covering an area of mixed government and rebel control).
In other words, the question would be where the battery stopped before firing one of its missiles, assuming that this Buk system was the one that fired the missile. (The map below shows the location of Makiivka in red, Almaz-Antey’s suspected launch site in yellow, and the general vicinity of the Dutch Safety Board’s 320-square-kilometer launch zone in green.)
Another curious aspect of this and the other eight or so Internet images of Buk missiles collected by Bellingcat and supposedly showing a Buk battery rumbling around Ukraine on or about July 17, 2014, is that they are all headed east toward Russia, yet there have been no images of Buks heading west from Russia into Ukraine, a logical necessity if the Russians gave a Buk system to ethnic Russian rebels or dispatched one of their own Buk military units directly into Ukraine, suspicions that Russia and the rebels have denied.
The absence of a westward-traveling Buk battery fits with the assessment from Western intelligence agencies that the several operational Buk systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, were under the control of the Ukrainian military, a disclosure contained in a Dutch intelligence report released last October and implicitly confirmed by an earlier U.S. “Government Assessment” that listed weapons systems that Russia had given the rebels but didn’t mention a Buk battery.
The Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet on July 17 belonged to the Ukrainian government. MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014.
MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” capable of downing a plane at that altitude and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country,” whereas the MIVD said the ethnic Russian rebels had only MANPADS that could not reach the higher altitudes.
On July 17, the Ukrainian military also was mounting a strong offensive against rebel positions to the north and thus the front lines were shifting rapidly, making it hard to know exactly where the borders of government and rebel control were. To the south, where the Buk missile was believed fired, the battle lines were lightly manned and hazy – because of the concentration of forces to the north – meaning that an armed Buk convoy could probably move somewhat freely.
Also, because of the offensive, the Ukrainian government feared a full-scale Russian invasion to prevent the annihilation of the rebels, explaining why Kiev was dispatching its Buk systems toward the Russian border, to defend against potential Russian air strikes.
Just a day earlier, a Ukrainian fighter flying along the border was shot down by an air-to-air missile (presumably fired by a Russian warplane), according to last October’s Dutch Safety Board report. So, tensions were high on July 17, 2014, when MH-17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, broke apart over eastern Ukraine, believed downed by a surface-to-air missile although there have been other suggestions that the plane might have been hit by an air-to-air missile.
At the time, Ukraine also was the epicenter of an “information war” that had followed a U.S.-backed coup on Feb. 22, 2014, which ousted democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced the Russian-friendly leader with a fiercely nationalistic and anti-Russian regime in Kiev. The violent coup, in turn, prompted Crimea to vote 96 percent in a hasty referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Eastern Ukraine and its large ethnic Russian population also revolted against the new authorities.
The U.S. government and much of the Western media, however, denied there had been a coup in Kiev, hailed the new regime as “legitimate,” and deemed Crimea’s secession a “Russian invasion.” The West also denounced the eastern Ukrainian resistance as “Russian aggression.” So, the propaganda war was almost as hot as the military fighting, a factor that has further distorted the pursuit of truth about the MH-17 tragedy.
Immediately after the MH-17 crash, the U.S. government sought to pin the blame on Russia as part of a propaganda drive to convince the European Union to join in imposing economic sanctions on Russia for its “annexation” of Crimea and its support of eastern Ukrainians resisting the Kiev regime.
However, a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the analysts could find no evidence that the Russians had supplied the rebels with a sophisticated Buk system or that the Russians had introduced a Buk battery under their own command. The source said the initial intelligence suggested that an undisciplined Ukrainian military team was responsible.
Yet, on July 20, 2014, just three days after the tragedy, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on all Sunday morning talk shows and blamed the Russian-backed rebels and implicitly Moscow. He cited some “social media” comments and – on NBC’s “Meet the Press” – added: “We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”
Two days later, on July 22, the Obama administration released a “Government Assessment” that tried to bolster Kerry’s accusations, in part, by listing the various weapons systems that U.S. intelligence believed Russia had provided the rebels, but a Buk battery was not among them. At background briefings for selected mainstream media reporters, U.S. intelligence analysts struggled to back up the administration’s case against Russia.
For instance, the analysts suggested to a Los Angeles Times reporter that Ukrainian government soldiers manning the suspected Buk battery may have switched to the rebel side before firing the missile. The Times wrote: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [Buk anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”
However, after that July 22 briefing — as U.S. intelligence analysts continued to pore over satellite imagery, telephonic intercepts and other data to refine their understanding of the tragedy — the U.S. government went curiously silent, refusing to make any updates or adjustments to its initial rush to judgment, a silence that has continued ever since.
Meanwhile, the source who continued receiving briefings from the U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the reason for going quiet was that the more detailed evidence pointed toward a rogue element of the Ukrainian military connected to a hardline Ukrainian oligarch, with the possible motive the shooting down of President Vladimir Putin’s plane returning from a state visit to South America.
In that scenario, a Ukrainian fighter jet in the vicinity (as reported by several eyewitnesses on the ground) was there primarily as a spotter, seeking to identify the target. But Putin’s plane, with similar markings to MH-17, took a more northerly route and landed safely in Moscow.
Though I was unable to determine whether the source’s analysts represented a dissenting or consensus opinion inside the U.S. intelligence community, some of the now public evidence could fit with that narrative, including why the suspected Buk system was pushing eastward as close to or even into “rebel” territory on July 17.
If Putin was the target, the attackers would need to spread immediate confusion about who was responsible to avoid massive retaliation by Moscow. A perfect cover story would be that Putin’s plane was shot down accidentally by his ethnic Russian allies or even his own troops, the ultimate case of being hoisted on his own petard.
Such a risky operation also would prepare disinformation for release after the attack to create more of a smokescreen and to gain control of the narrative, including planting material on the Internet to be disseminated by friendly or credulous media outlets.
The Ukrainian government has denied having a fighter jet in the air at the time of the MH-17 shoot-down and has denied that any of its Buk or other anti-aircraft systems were involved.
Yet, whatever the truth, U.S. intelligence clearly knows a great deal more than it has been willing to share with the public or even with the Dutch-led investigations. Last October, more than a year after the shoot-down, the Dutch Safety Board was unable to say who was responsible and could only approximate the location of the missile firing inside a 320-square-kilometer area, whereas Kerry had claimed three days after the crash that the U.S. government knew the launch point.
Earlier this year, Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor of the Dutch-led Joint Investigative Team [JIT], provided a partial update to the Dutch family members of MH-17 victims, explaining that he hoped to have a more precise fix on the firing site by the second half of 2016, i.e., possibly more than two years after the tragedy.
Westerbeke’s letter acknowledged that the investigators lacked “primary raw radar images” which could have revealed a missile or a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH-17. That apparently was because Ukrainian authorities had shut down their primary radar facilities supposedly for maintenance, leaving only secondary radar which would show commercial aircraft but not military planes or rockets.
Russian officials have said their radar data suggest that a Ukrainian warplane might have fired on MH-17 with an air-to-air missile, a possibility that is difficult to rule out without examining primary radar which has so far not been available. Primary radar data also might have picked up a ground-fired missile, Westerbeke wrote.
“Raw primary radar data could provide information on the rocket trajectory,” Westerbeke wrote. “The JIT does not have that information yet. JIT has questioned a member of the Ukrainian air traffic control and a Ukrainian radar specialist. They explained why no primary radar images were saved in Ukraine.” Westerbeke said investigators are also asking Russia about its data.
Westerbeke added that the JIT had “no video or film of the launch or the trajectory of the rocket.” Nor, he said, do the investigators have satellite photos of the rocket launch.
“The clouds on the part of the day of the downing of MH17 prevented usable pictures of the launch site from being available,” he wrote. “There are pictures from just before and just after July 17th and they are an asset in the investigation.”
Though Westerbeke provided no details, the Russian military released a number of satellite images purporting to show Ukrainian government Buk missile systems north of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk before the attack, including two batteries that purportedly were shifted 50 kilometers south of Donetsk on July 17, the day of the crash, and then removed by July 18.
Russian Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov called on the Ukrainian government to explain the movements of its Buk systems and why Kiev’s Kupol-M19S18 radars, which coordinate the flight of Buk missiles, showed increased activity leading up to the July 17 shoot-down.
Part of the reason that the MH-17 mystery has remained unsolved is that the U.S. government insists that its satellite surveillance, which includes infrared detection of heat sources as well as highly precise photographic imagery, remains a “state secret” that cannot be made public.
However, in similar past incidents, the U.S. government has declassified sensitive information. For instance, after a Soviet pilot accidentally shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 over Russian territory in 1983, the Reagan administration revealed the U.S. capability to intercept Soviet ground-to-air military communications in order to make the Soviets look even worse by selectively editing the intercepts to present the destruction of the civilian aircraft as willful.
In that case, too, the U.S. government let its propaganda needs overwhelm any commitment to the truth, as Alvin A. Snyder, who in 1983 was director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division, wrote in his 1995 book, Warriors of Disinformation.
After KAL-007 was shot down, “the Reagan administration’s spin machine began cranking up,” Snyder wrote. “The objective, quite simply, was to heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible. … The American media swallowed the U.S. government line without reservation.”
On Sept. 6, 1983, the Reagan administration went so far as to present a doctored transcript of the intercepts to the United Nations Security Council. “The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” Snyder wrote.
Only a decade later, when Snyder saw the complete transcripts — including the portions that the Reagan administration had excised — would he fully realize how many of the central elements of the U.S. presentation were lies.
Snyder concluded, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.” [For more details on the KAL-007 deception and the history of U.S. trickery, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War.”]
In the MH-17 case, the Obama administration let Kerry present the rush to judgment fingering the Russians and the rebels but then kept all the evidence secret even though the U.S. government’s satellite capabilities are well-known. By refusing to declassify any information for the MH-17 investigation, Washington has succeeded in maintaining the widespread impression that Moscow was responsible for the tragedy without having to prove it.
The source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the Obama administration considered “coming clean” about the MH-17 case in March, when Thomas Schansman, the Dutch father of the only American victim, was pleading for the U.S. government’s cooperation, but administration officials ultimately decided to keep quiet because to do otherwise would have “reversed the narrative.”
In the meantime, outfits such as Bellingcat have been free to reinforce the impression of Russian guilt, even as some of those claims have proved false. For instance, Bellingcat directed a news crew from Australia’s “60 Minutes” to a location outside Luhansk (near the Russian border) that the group had identified as the site for the “getaway video” showing a Buk battery with one missile missing.
The “60 Minutes” crew went to the spot and pretended to be at the place shown in the video, but none of the landmarks matched up, which became obvious when screen grabs of the video were placed next to the scene of the Australian crew’s stand-upper. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Fake Evidence Blaming Russia for MH-17.”]
Yet, reflecting the deep-seated mainstream media bias on the MH-17 case, the Australian program reacted angrily to my pointing out the obvious discrepancies. In a follow-up, the show denounced me but could only cite a utility pole in its footage that looked similar to a utility pole in the video.
While it’s true that utility poles tend to look alike, in this case none of the surroundings did, including the placement of the foliage and a house shown in the video that isn’t present in the Australian program’s shot. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Reckless Stand-upper on MH-17.”]
But the impact of the nearly two years of one-sided coverage of the MH-17 case in the mainstream Western media has been considerable. In the last few days, a lawyer for the families of Australian victims announced the filing of a lawsuit against Russia and Putin in the European court for human rights seeking compensation of $10 million per passenger. Many of the West’s news articles on the lawsuit assume Russia’s guilt.
In other words, whatever the truth about the MH-17 shoot-down, the tragedy has proven to be worth its weight in propaganda gold against Russia and Putin, even as the U.S. government hides the actual proof that might show exactly who was responsible.
(Research by Assistant Editor Chelsea Gilmour.)
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).