My first book, Fooling America, examined Washington’s excited “conventional wisdom” around the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 when nearly the entire political-punditry elite was thrilled about bombing the heck out of Iraq, inflicting heavy civilian casualties in Baghdad and slaughtering tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers as they fled from Kuwait.
Ironically, one of the few dissenters from this war lust was right-wing commentator Robert Novak, who actually did some quality reporting on how President George H.W. Bush rejected repeated peace overtures because he wanted a successful ground war as a way to instill a new joy of war among the American people.
Bush recognized that a brief, victorious ground war would – in his words – “kick the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all,” i.e. get Americans to forget their revulsion about foreign wars, a hangover from the bloody defeat in Vietnam.
So Novak, the anti-communist hardliner who often had baited other pundits for their “softness” toward “commies,” became on this occasion a naysayer who wanted to give peace a chance. But that meant Novak was baited on “The Capital Gang” chat show for his war doubts.
To my surprise, one of the most aggressive enforcers of the pro-war “group think” was Wall Street Journal Washington bureau chief Al Hunt, who had often been one of the more thoughtful, less warmongering voices on the program. Hunt dubbed Novak “Neville Novak,” suggesting that Novak’s interest in avoiding war in the Middle East was on par with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Adolf Hitler before World War II.
Months later when I interviewed Hunt about his mocking of Novak’s anti-war softness, Hunt justified his “Neville Novak” line as a fitting rejoinder for all the times Novak had baited opponents for their softness against communism. “After years of battling Novak from the left, to have gotten to his right, I enjoyed that,” Hunt said.
At the time, I found this tit-for-tat, hah-hah gotcha behavior among Washington’s armchair warriors troubling because it ignored the terrible suffering of people in various countries at the receiving end of American military might, such as the Iraqi civilians including women and children who were burned alive when a U.S. bomb penetrated a Baghdad bomb shelter, as well as the young Iraqi soldiers incinerated in their vehicles as they fled the battlefield.
In the 100-hour ground war, U.S. casualties were relatively light, 147 killed in combat and another 236 killed in accidents or from other causes. “Small losses as military statistics go,” Gen. Colin Powell wrote later, “but a tragedy for each family.” In Official Washington, however, the dead were a small price to pay for a “feel-good” war that let President Bush vanquish the psychological ghosts of the Vietnam War.
I also had the sickening sense that this “popular” war – celebrated with victory parades and lavish firework displays – was setting the stage for more horrors in the future. Already, neoconservative pundits, such as The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer, were demanding that U.S. forces must go all the way to Baghdad and “finish the job” by getting rid of Saddam Hussein. A dangerous hubris was taking hold in Washington.
As we have seen in the decades since, the euphoria over the Persian Gulf victory did feed into the imperial arrogance that contributed to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. At that moment, when the neocons in George W. Bush’s administration were concocting excuses for finally marching to Baghdad, there were almost no voices among the big-shot commentators who dared repeat Robert Novak’s “mistake” of 1991.
Playing Joe McCarthy
I mention all this now because we are seeing something similar with the Democrats as they lead the charge into a dangerous New Cold War with Russia. The Democrats, who bore the brunt of the Red-baiting during the earlier Cold War, are now playing the roles of Senators Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon in smearing anyone who won’t join in the Russia-bashing as “stooges,” “traitors” and “useful idiots.”
When Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has one of his few lucid moments and suggests that the U.S. should cooperate with Russia rather than provoke more confrontations, he is denounced from many political quarters. But the attacks are most feverish from Democrats looking to give Hillary Clinton a boost politically and a diversionary excuse for her Wall Street speeches that she tried so hard to keep hidden until they were released by WikiLeaks from hacked emails of her longtime adviser John Podesta.
The Obama administration’s intelligence community has claimed, without presenting evidence, that Russian intelligence was behind the Democratic Party hacks as a way to influence the U.S. election, a somewhat ironic charge given the long history of the U.S. government engaging in much more aggressive actions to block the election of disfavored politicians abroad and even to overthrow democratically elected leaders who got in Washington’s way.
Rather than seeking to explain Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street bigwigs and other special interests, Podesta and other Democrats have simply piled on the Russia-bashing with suggestions that Trump is consorting with America’s enemies.
While the Democrats may consider this strategy very clever – a kind of karmic payback for the Republican red-baiting of Democrats during the Cold War – it carries even greater dangers than Al Hunt’s putting down Robert Novak for trying to save lives in the Persian Gulf War.
By whipping up a new set of whipping boys – the “evil” Russians and their “ultra-evil” leader Vladimir Putin – the Democrats are setting in motion passions that could spin out of control and cause a President Hillary Clinton to push the two nuclear powers into a crisis that – with a simple misjudgment on the part of either nation – could end life on the planet.
US security officials are bewildered that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has dared to doubt their allegations against the big bad russkies. Who would have thought?
Any statement made by US intelligence should be perceived as unquestionable truth, and shouldn’t be interrogated for proof. And should someone, like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for instance, dare to put such statements to doubt, he should be burned on a pyre as a heretic and blasphemer.
Not to many current and former US security officials, according to The Washington Post.
In the first US presidential debate on September 26, Trump openly doubted US intel’s allegations that it was Russia that conducted the hack on Democratic National Committee servers that exposed some dark truths about the party.
“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” he said. “I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?”
According to the Post, which consulted several former intelligence officials, “Trump is either willfully disputing intelligence assessments, has a blind spot on Russia, or perhaps doesn’t understand the nonpartisan traditions and approach of intelligence professionals.”
Of course, we can’t know whether Trump has a “blind spot” on Russia (he might have, but he hasn’t let us know). And, of course, the “approach of intelligence professionals” is undoubtedly “nonpartisan,” as both Democrats and Republican seem to be in unanimous agreement in their anti-Russian hysteria. But does that mean that intelligence “assessments” are inherently unbiased and cannot be willfully disputed?
Let’s be real. No proof of Russian involvement in the hacks has yet been presented. And it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that it is unlikely to ever materialize, as groundless accusations about Moscow for these kinds of breaches has become old hat for US officials on both sides of the political aisle. Everyone, from Congress to the US mainstream media, has chosen to be content with officials’ assurances that “we are confident.”
Sorry, guys, but that’s just not good enough for everyone.
According to basic principles of logic, when accusations are made, the accuser should be expected to furnish evidence of their claims. Otherwise, depending on the severity of the finger-pointing, it might be called defamation or libel and it’s a crime that’s subject to legal prosecution.
Challenging this basic principle, it would seem, defies logic. Remarkably, however, General Michael V. Hayden, former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency, seems to believe that it’s “defying logic” not to.
“He seems to ignore [intelligence officials’] advice,” Hayden added, referring to the fact that Trump has been accused of lacking expertise in certain arenas.
And his candidacy is certainly diverging from the expectations of many — the US intelligence community, it turns out, is no exception.
“In my experience, candidates have taken into account the information they have received and modulated their comments,” the Post quoted former acting CIA director John McLaughlin as saying.
“I don’t recall a previous candidate saying they didn’t believe” information from an intelligence briefing, John Rizzo, a former CIA lawyer who served under seven presidents, added.
Well, gentlemen, believe it or not, this candidate does.
“It’s remarkable that [Trump] refused to say an unkind syllable about Vladimir Putin,” General Hayden added. It would seem, too, that hurling accusations at Putin, regardless of the grounds, has likewise become a norm of good behavior — and American political correctness.
The events in the Middle East, Syria and Aleppo are the focus of global attention. Rarely has a battle been so decisive to the outcome of a war and the fate of hundreds of millions of people around the world
Hillary Clinton in the last presidential debate repeatedly called for the establishment of a no-fly zone (NFZ) in Syria. The concept, reiterated several times, clashes with the revelation contained in her private emails admitting that the implementation of a NFZ would entail the increased deaths of Syrian civilians. In a recent hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Philip Breedlove was asked what kind of effort would be required for the US armed forces to impose a NFZ over Syrian skies. With obvious embarrassment, the General was forced to admit that such a request would involve hitting Russian and Syrian aircraft and vehicles, opening the door to a direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington, a decision the General was simply not willing to take. The military leadership has always shown a readiness to implement the military option; so this time they must have sniffed the danger of a direct conflict with Moscow.
The Kremlin has publicly admitted to deploying in Syria the S-400 and S-300V4 advanced anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems respectively. The presence of the defense complex was intentionally announced as a factor of deterrence and is a logical strategy. The message to Washington is clear: any unidentified object in Syrian skies will be shot down. The United States bases much of its military strength on the constant need to project power, making its opponents believe that it possesses capabilities that others do not hold. Therefore it is very unlikely that the Pentagon would want to reveal to the world the worth of their stealth systems and their ‘legendary‘ American cruise missiles when faced with the S-300V4 or S-400. The Kosovo War serves to remind us of the F-117 that was shot down by Soviet systems (S-125) dating from the 1960s.
Hillary Clinton’s threats against Moscow were not the only ones. The present policy makers in Washington continue to make aggressive statements demonstrating their total loss of touch with reality. In recent weeks, hysterical reactions were recorded by the Pentagon, the State Department, top military generals, and even representatives of American diplomacy. To emphasize the unhappiness prevalent in some Washington circles, several articles appeared in The Washington Post and The New York Times calling for the imposition of a US no-fly zone in Syria, ignoring the consequences highlighted by Dunford. There are two hypotheses under consideration: hitting the Syrian army air bases with cruise missiles, or the use of stealth planes to bomb Damascus’s A2/AD installations.
Behind Washington’s frantic reactions and vehement protests is the probability of military defeat. The US does not have any ability to prevent the liberation of Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Russian Federation. In the last fifteen days, the SAA and Russia have achieved significant progress, and it is this that has led to an escalation of tensions. Some of the most significant episodes reflecting this over the last few days include: jets of the international coalition hitting the SAA, causing 90 deaths; US government officials threatening Russia with the downing of her planes and the bombings of her cities, resulting in Russian civilian deaths; and the blaming of Moscow for an attack on a humanitarian convoy. The climax seemed to have been reached at the United Nations where the US representatives prevented a Russian resolution condemning the terrorist attacks on the Russian embassy in Damascus. It is interesting to note that fifteen years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Washington finds itself defending Al Nusra Front (AKA Al Qaeda) in an official United Nations meeting; something to ponder. But apparently there is no limit to provocations, and a few days after this incredible denouement, the Pentagon was keen to point out that the possibility of a preventive nuclear strike against Russia is still valid.
It therefore seems almost simplistic to emphasize that because of the success of the SAA, Washington, Ankara, Riyadh, Doha and Tel Aviv are showing unprecedented signs of weakness and nervousness. Their commitment to overthrowing the legitimate government of Assad has failed. The combined action of the Syrian and Russian ground, air and sea forces pushed Washington and the corporate media to move from words of condemnation to increasingly open threats.
Last month the situation against the terrorists quickly changed in the north of Syria thanks to the Syrian Arab Army and its allies supported by the West. In Aleppo, the SAA continues to work every day with great success toward the city’s liberation. Neighborhoods and large areas are back under government control. The relentless advances of the troops loyal to Assad are altering the course of the war in Syria in favor of Damascus, eliminating the US attempts to remove the legitimate Syrian government. A victory in Aleppo would mean the near certainty of defeat for the terrorists in the remaining areas of the country. The closing of the border with Turkey would cut the supply lines, with consequences and repercussions throughout Syria. What would still remain open are a few crossing areas in the south of the country near the border with Jordan that have always been a supply source for terrorists. However, it would be very difficult for this supply line alone to sustain the conflict or adequately replace the one closed north of Aleppo. Especially in the north through Turkey, and to the west through the uncontrolled border with Iraq, the terrorists receive continuous supplies. The liberation of Mosul by the Iraqi army, Aleppo by the SAA, and Der Al-Zur in the near future, will pave the way for the strategic recapture of Raqqa, the last bastion of Daesh, thereby defeating even the Plan B to partition the country.
With the failure of the northern front, the terrorists will be faced with the probable prospect of the complete collapse of their operations nationwide. Some will continue to fight, but most will throw down their weapons knowing that they have lost the war. Once this is achieved, the liberation of the rest of Syria should be a matter of a few months. It should be remembered that the recapture of Aleppo would guarantee a crushing defeat for the regional sponsors of international terrorism (Qatar and Saudi Arabia).
Still, it is not only the advance of Aleppo that is cause for concern for enemies of Syria. Obama and his administration are now irrelevant, also because of one of the most controversial presidential elections in recent history. The uncertain future of Washington’s foreign policy has prompted partners such as Riyadh, Doha, Ankara and Tel Aviv not to hesitate in further adding fuel to the Syrian conflagration, worried about any future inactivity from Washington and eager to advance their own military solution to the conflict.
In the case of Ankara, the invasion of Iraq and Syria is a serious danger that risks plunging the region into further chaos and destruction, with the Iraqi prime minister not hesitating to label the Turkish move reckless and warning of the conflict expanding into a regional conflict. Saudi Arabia’s problems are even greater, as it does not have the ability, in terms of men and means, to intervene directly in Syria because of its disastrous involvement in the war in Yemen. The speed with which confidence in Riyadh is crumbling is unprecedented. Her large currency reserves are dwindling, and it seems it is because tens of billions of dollars have been squandered in financing the military action against Yemen. Another example of independent military action concerns Israel. Four years into the Syrian conflict, Israel continues its secret war against Hezbollah and Iranian troops, who are engaged in areas bordering Israel in fighting al-Nusra Front and Daesh. For Tel Aviv, there are still two options desirable to the Syrian crisis, both in line with their strategy, namely, the continuation of chaos and disorder, or a balkanization of Syria. In both cases, the objective is to expand Israel’s sphere of influence far beyond the Golan Heights, which were occupied illegally years ago.
The unsuccessful attempts of Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia to change events in Syria have highlighted the growing strategic misunderstandings between the United States and regional partners, misunderstandings that often oblige Ankara, Riyadh and Tel Aviv to turn to the Russian Federation for confidential dialogue, since Moscow is the only player able to adjust the delicate Middle East equilibrium.
In the near future, it remains evident to Moscow and Damascus that some risks still exist, despite a well-considered overall strategy. The acceleration in the liberation of Aleppo also has an ancillary purpose that aims to minimize maneuverability for the next American administration. In a certain way, it is a race against time: Aleppo must be liberated in order to chart the way towards the end of the conflict before the next US president comes into office in January 2017. It is yet to be seen whether Clinton or Trump plan to go beyond Obama’s empty threats, but understandably Damascus and Moscow have no intention of being caught off guard, especially with a probable Clinton presidency.
After years of negotiations with the schizophrenic diplomacy of the US, Moscow and Damascus have decided to protect themselves against any sudden decisions that may come from the American «deep state». Deploying the most advanced systems existing in air defense, Moscow has called Washington’s bluff as no one has done in years. The red line for Moscow was crossed by the tragic events of September 17 in Der al-zur. The creation by the Russians of a no-fly zone over Syrian skies has been repeatedly suggested. But incredibly, in the hours immediately after the cowardly attack against Syrian troops, the US Department of Defense and the State Department proposed the creation of a no-fly-zone that would serve to ground Russian and Syrian planes. It was a brazen and provocative proposal for Damascus and Moscow if there ever was one.
Sensing the danger in these words, Moscow acted immediately, deploying cutting-edge systems to protect Syrians skies with equipment that can shoot down cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, and even ballistic missiles (S-300 and S-400). To make sure Washington fully understood the message, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reiterated what was already publicly announced, namely that any unidentified object would be shot down immediately, as there would not be any sufficient time for Russian operators to verify the original launch, trajectory and final target of any objects detected. It is a clear warning to the US and its long-standing strategy that requires the use of large amounts of cruise missiles to destroy anti-aircraft systems in order to pave the way for a no-fly zone as was seen in Libya. The Russian MoD has even specified that American fifth-generation stealth aircraft could be easily targeted, alluding to a radius of operation of the S-200 systems, S-300 and S-400 (and all variants) that would surprise many international observers. This statement also seems to indirectly confirm another theory that remains pure speculation, which is that during the September 17 attack by the US on the SAA in Der Al-Zur seem, some jets from the international coalition were targeted by Russian or Syrian air-defense systems (perhaps S-200s or S-400s), forcing the airplanes to retreat before facing the prospect of being shot down.
Whatever the intentions that are hidden behind Washington’s hysterical threats, Moscow has suggested several asymmetrical scenarios in response to a direct attack on its personnel in Syria. In addition to the S-300 and S-400 systems, the MoD has openly declared its knowledge of the exact locations of US special forces in Syria, a clear reference to the Syrian and Russian ability to strike US soldiers operating alongside terrorists or ‘moderate’ rebels.
All of Major-General Igor Konashenkov’s recent press conferences have clearly shown new systems deployed in Syria for air defense, a more than intentional advertisement. Aside from deterrence continuing to be one preferred instrument adopted by Moscow, the unusually strong, direct and unambiguous words of the Russian MoD easily show how the patience of Moscow and Damascus has been exhausted, especially following the recent sequence of events as well as repeated threats.
In such a scenario, the US can only rely on one weapon: complaints, threats and hysterical crying amplified by the mainstream media, generals and the official spokespeople of dozens of agencies in Washington. Nothing that can actually stop the liberating action of the SAA and its allies.
The United States has no alternatives available to prevent an outcome to the conflict that is undesirable for it. Whichever route it chooses, there is no way to change the events in Syria. Even American generals had to admit that a no-fly zone in Syria is out of the question. It is easy for US State Department spokesperson Admiral Kirby to launch empty threats, but it is more difficult for the military to act on these threats while avoiding a nuclear apocalypse. Whatever the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections, the war in Syria for the United States and its regional partners is irretrievably lost, and the hysteria and provocations of recent weeks is symptomatic of the frustration and nervousness that has not been common for Americans in recent years.
The neoconservative president of the U.S.-taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy [NED] has called for the U.S. government to “summon the will” to engineer the overthrow of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that the 10-year-old murder case of a Russian journalist should be the inspiration.
Carl Gershman, who has headed NED since its founding in 1983, doesn’t cite any evidence that Putin was responsible for the death of Anna Politkovskaya but uses a full column in The Washington Post on Friday to create that impression, calling her death “a window to Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin autocrat whom Americans are looking at for the first time.”
Gershman wraps up his article by writing: “Politkovskaya saw the danger [of Putin], but she and other liberals in Russia were not strong enough to stop it. The United States has the power to contain and defeat this danger. The issue is whether we can summon the will to do so. Remembering Politkovskaya can help us rise to this challenge.”
That Gershman would so directly call for the ouster of Russia’s clearly popular president represents further proof that NED is a neocon-driven vehicle that seeks to create the political circumstances for “regime change” even when that means removing leaders who are elected by a country’s citizenry.
And there is a reason for NED to see its job in that way. In 1983, NED essentially took over the CIA’s role of influencing electoral outcomes and destabilizing governments that got in the way of U.S. interests, except that NED carried out those functions in a quasi-overt fashion while the CIA did them covertly.
NED also serves as a sort of slush fund for neocons and other favored U.S. foreign policy operatives because a substantial portion of NED’s money circulates through U.S.-based non-governmental organizations or NGOs.
That makes Gershman an influential neocon paymaster whose organization dispenses some $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers’ money to activists, journalists and NGOs both in Washington and around the world. The money helps them undermine governments in Washington’s disfavor – or as Gershman would prefer to say, “build democratic institutions,” even when that requires overthrowing democratically elected leaders.
NED was a lead actor in the Feb. 22, 2014 coup ousting Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych in a U.S.-backed putsch that touched off the civil war inside Ukraine between Ukrainian nationalists from the west and ethnic Russians from the east. The Ukraine crisis has become a flashpoint for the dangerous New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia.
Before the anti-Yanukovych coup, NED was funding scores of projects inside Ukraine, which Gershman had identified as “the biggest prize” in a Sept. 26, 2013 column also published in The Washington Post.
In that column, Gershman wrote that after the West claimed Ukraine, “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” In other words, Gershman already saw Ukraine as an important step toward an even bigger prize, a “regime change” in Moscow.
Less than five months after Gershman’s column, pro-Western political activists and neo-Nazi street fighters – with strong support from U.S. neocons and the State Department – staged a coup in Kiev driving Yanukovych from office and installing a rabidly anti-Russian regime, which the West promptly dubbed “legitimate.”
In reaction to the coup and the ensuing violence against ethnic Russians, the voters of Crimea approved a referendum with 96 percent of the vote to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a move that the West’s governments and media decried as a Russian “invasion” and “annexation.”
The new regime in Kiev then mounted what it called an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” or ATO against ethnic Russians in the east who had supported Yanukovych and refused to accept the anti-constitutional coup in Kiev as legitimate.
The ATO, spearheaded by neo-Nazis from the Azov battalion and other extremists, killed thousands of ethnic Russians, prompting Moscow to covertly provide some assistance to the rebels, a move denounced by the West as “aggression.”
In his latest column, Gershman not only urges the United States to muster the courage to oust Putin but he shows off the kind of clever sophistry that America’s neocons are known for. Though lacking any evidence, he intimates that Putin ordered the murder of Politkovskaya and pretty much every other “liberal” who has died in Russia.
It is a technique that I’ve seen used in other circumstances, such as the lists of “mysterious deaths” that American right-wingers publish citing people who crossed the paths of Bill and Hillary Clinton and ended up dead. This type of smear spreads suspicion of guilt not based on proof but on the number of acquaintances and adversaries who have met untimely deaths.
In the 1990s, one conservative friend of mine pointed to the Clintons’ “mysterious deaths” list and marveled that even if only a few were the victims of a Clinton death squad that would be quite a story, to which I replied that if even one were murdered by the Clintons that would be quite a story – but that there was no proof of any such thing.
“Mysterious deaths” lists represent a type of creepy conspiracy theory that shifts the evidentiary burden onto the targets of the smears who must somehow prove their innocence, when there is no evidence of their guilt (only vague suspicions). It is contemptible when applied to American leaders and it is contemptible when applied to Russian leaders, but it is not beneath Carl Gershman.
Beyond that, Gershman’s public musing about the U.S. somehow summoning “the will” to remove Putin might — in a normal world — disqualify NED and its founding president from the privilege of dispensing U.S. taxpayers’ money to operatives in Washington and globally. It is extraordinarily provocative and dangerous, an example of classic neocon hubris.
While the neocons do love their tough talk, they are not known for thinking through their “regime change” schemes. The idea of destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia with the goal of ousting Putin, with his 82 percent approval ratings, must rank as the nuttiest and most reckless neocon scheme of all.
Gershman and his neocon pals may fantasize about making Russia’s economy scream while financing pro-Western “liberals” who would stage disruptive protests in Red Square, but he and his friends haven’t weighed the consequences even if they could succeed.
Given the devastating experience that most Russians had when NED’s beloved Russian “liberals” helped impose American “shock therapy” in the 1990s — an experiment that reduced average life expectancy by a full decade — it’s hard to believe that the Russian people would simply take another dose of that bitter medicine sitting down.
Even if the calculating Putin were somehow removed amid economic desperation, he is far more likely to be followed by a much harder-line Russian nationalist who might well see Moscow’s arsenal of nuclear weapons as the only way to protect Mother Russia’s honor. In other words, the neocons’ latest brash “regime change” scheme might be their last – and the last for all humanity.
A Neocon Slush Fund
Gershman’s arrogance also raises questions about why the American taxpayer should tolerate what amounts to a $100 million neocon slush fund which is used to create dangerous mischief around the world. Despite having “democracy” in its name, NED appears only to favor democratic outcomes when they fit with Official Washington’s desires.
If a disliked candidate wins an election, NED acts as if that is prima facie evidence that the system is undemocratic and must be replaced with a process that ensures the selection of candidates who will do what the U.S. government tells them to do. Put differently, NED’s name is itself a fraud.
But that shouldn’t come as a surprise since NED was created in 1983 at the urging of Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director William J. Casey, who wanted to off-load some of the CIA’s traditional work ensuring that foreign elections turned out in ways acceptable to Washington, and when they didn’t – as in Iran under Mossadegh, in Guatemala under Arbenz or in Chile under Allende – the CIA’s job was to undermine and remove the offending electoral winner.
In 1983, Casey and the CIA’s top propagandist, Walter Raymond Jr., who had been moved to Reagan’s National Security Council staff, wanted to create a funding mechanism to support outside groups, such as Freedom House and other NGOs, so they could engage in propaganda and political action that the CIA had historically organized and paid for covertly. The idea emerged for a congressionally funded entity that would serve as a conduit for this money.
In one undated letter to then-White House counselor Edwin Meese III, Casey urged creation of a “National Endowment,” but he recognized the need to hide the strings being pulled by the CIA. “Obviously we here [at CIA] should not get out front in the development of such an organization, nor should we appear to be a sponsor or advocate,” Casey wrote.
The National Endowment for Democracy took shape in late 1983 as Congress decided to also set aside pots of money — within NED — for the Republican and Democratic parties and for organized labor, creating enough bipartisan largesse that passage was assured.
But some in Congress thought it was important to wall the NED off from any association with the CIA, so a provision was included to bar the participation of any current or former CIA official, according to one congressional aide who helped write the legislation.
This aide told me that one night late in the 1983 session, as the bill was about to go to the House floor, the CIA’s congressional liaison came pounding at the door to the office of Rep. Dante Fascell, a senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a chief sponsor of the bill.
The frantic CIA official conveyed a single message from CIA Director Casey: the language barring the participation of CIA personnel must be struck from the bill, the aide recalled, noting that Fascell consented to the demand, not fully recognizing its significance – that it would permit the continued behind-the-scenes involvement of Raymond and Casey.
The aide said Fascell also consented to the Reagan administration’s choice of Carl Gershman to head NED, again not recognizing how this decision would affect the future of the new entity and American foreign policy.
Gershman, who had followed the classic neoconservative path from youthful socialism to fierce anticommunism, became NED’s first (and, to this day, only) president. Though NED is technically independent of U.S. foreign policy, Gershman in the early years coordinated decisions on grants with Raymond at the NSC.
For instance, on Jan. 2, 1985, Raymond wrote to two NSC Asian experts that “Carl Gershman has called concerning a possible grant to the Chinese Alliance for Democracy (CAD). I am concerned about the political dimension to this request. We should not find ourselves in a position where we have to respond to pressure, but this request poses a real problem to Carl.
“Senator [Orrin] Hatch, as you know, is a member of the board. Secondly, NED has already given a major grant for a related Chinese program.”
Neocon Tag Teams
From the start, NED became a major benefactor for Freedom House, beginning with a $200,000 grant in 1984 to build “a network of democratic opinion-makers.” In NED’s first four years, from 1984 and 1988, it lavished $2.6 million on Freedom House, accounting for more than one-third of its total income, according to a study by the liberal Council on Hemispheric Affairs that was entitled “Freedom House: Portrait of a Pass-Through.”
Over the ensuing three decades, Freedom House has become almost an NED subsidiary, often joining NED in holding policy conferences and issuing position papers, both organizations pushing primarily a neoconservative agenda, challenging countries deemed insufficiently “free,” including Syria, Ukraine (in 2014) and Russia.
Indeed, NED and Freedom House often work as a kind of tag-team with NED financing “non-governmental organizations” inside targeted countries and Freedom House berating those governments if they crack down on U.S.-funded NGOs.
For instance, on Nov. 16, 2012, NED and Freedom House joined together to denounce legislation passed by the Russian parliament that required recipients of foreign political money to register with the government.
Or, as NED and Freedom House framed the issue: the Russian Duma sought to “restrict human rights and the activities of civil society organizations and their ability to receive support from abroad. Changes to Russia’s NGO legislation will soon require civil society organizations receiving foreign funds to choose between registering as ‘foreign agents’ or facing significant financial penalties and potential criminal charges.”
Of course, the United States has a nearly identical Foreign Agent Registration Act that likewise requires entities that receive foreign funding and seek to influence U.S. government policy to register with the Justice Department or face possible fines or imprisonment.
But the Russian law would impede NED’s efforts to destabilize the Russian government through funding of political activists, journalists and civic organizations, so it was denounced as an infringement of human rights and helped justify Freedom House’s rating of Russia as “not free.”
Another bash-Putin tag team has been The Washington Post’s editors and NED’s Gershman. On July 28, 2015, a Post editorial and a companion column by Gershman led readers to believe that Putin was paranoid and “power mad” in worrying that outside money funneled into NGOs threatened Russian sovereignty.
The Post and Gershman were especially outraged that the Russians had enacted the law requiring NGOs financed from abroad and seeking to influence Russian policies to register as “foreign agents” and that one of the first funding operations to fall prey to these tightened rules was Gershman’s NED.
The Post’s editors wrote that Putin’s “latest move … is to declare the NED an ‘undesirable’ organization under the terms of a law that Mr. Putin signed in May . The law bans groups from abroad who are deemed a ‘threat to the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, its defense capabilities and its national security.’
“The charge against the NED is patently ridiculous. The NED’s grantees in Russia last year ran the gamut of civil society. They advocated transparency in public affairs, fought corruption and promoted human rights, freedom of information and freedom of association, among other things. All these activities make for a healthy democracy but are seen as threatening from the Kremlin’s ramparts.
“The new law on ‘undesirables’ comes in addition to one signed in 2012 that gave authorities the power to declare organizations ‘foreign agents’ if they engaged in any kind of politics and receive money from abroad. The designation, from the Stalin era, implies espionage.”
However, among the relevant points that the Post’s editors wouldn’t tell their readers was the fact that Russia’s Foreign Agent Registration Act was modeled after the American Foreign Agent Registration Act and that NED President Gershman had already publicly made clear — in his Sept. 26, 2013 column — that his goal was to oust Russia’s elected president.
In his July 28, 2015 column, Gershman further deemed Putin’s government illegitimate. “Russia’s newest anti-NGO law, under which the National Endowment for Democracy … was declared an “undesirable organization” prohibited from operating in Russia, is the latest evidence that the regime of President Vladimir Putin faces a worsening crisis of political legitimacy,” Gershman wrote, adding:
“This is the context in which Russia has passed the law prohibiting Russian democrats from getting any international assistance to promote freedom of expression, the rule of law and a democratic political system. Significantly, democrats have not backed down. They have not been deterred by the criminal penalties contained in the ‘foreign agents’ law and other repressive laws. They know that these laws contradict international law, which allows for such aid, and that the laws are meant to block a better future for Russia.”
The reference to how a “foreign agents” registration law conflicts with international law might have been a good place for Gershman to explain why what is good for the goose in the United States isn’t good for the gander in Russia. But hypocrisy is a hard thing to rationalize and would have undermined the propagandistic impact of the column.
Also undercutting the column’s impact would be an acknowledgement of where NED’s money comes from. So Gershman left that out, too. After all, how many governments would allow a hostile foreign power to sponsor politicians and civic organizations whose mission is to undermine and overthrow the existing government and put in someone who would be compliant to that foreign power?
And, if you had any doubts about what Gershman’s intent was regarding Russia, he dispelled them in his Friday column in which he calls on the United States to “summon the will” to “contain and defeat this danger,” which he makes clear is the continued rule of Vladimir Putin.
There is a specter haunting the establishment media, the specter of a Trump presidency. This idea is apparently so terrifying that no unethical and hypocritical action is too extreme for “mainstream” journalists to take if it they believe it will damage Trump’s presidential prospects.
Enter the Russian threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin has become this election cycle’s boogeyman with the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton constantly invoking him as if he is her actual opponent. She invokes Putin, even though Clinton has extensive connections to Putin and his inner circle.
The establishment media, taking its cues from the Clinton campaign, is now peddling any unhinged conspiracy theory if it somehow connects Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. The theories collapse under the slightest of scrutiny, but that seems to make no difference in the rapidity with which they are published.
The latest backfire was a claim that the Twitter hashtag “#TrumpWon” was started in Russia before it trended. This would, in theory, prove Russia was trying to meddle in the U.S. election.
Not long after the story went viral, it became undeniably clear it was hoax. The Washington Post, a major center for unhinged conspiracy theories about Russia, had to concede the claim was “probably false.”
But this admission is unlikely to stop the Washington Post from publishing deranged ramblings from Legatum Institute’s Anne Applebaum, who recently speculated that Putin is engaging in a covert action program to help Trump win the presidential election. (Whether Applebaum believes her own statements is unclear, but they are nonetheless very self-serving.)
That these Manchurian candidate stories keep falling apart, or are exposed as Clinton campaign propaganda, is irrelevant to the establishment media because Trump is such an existential threat so the rules no longer matter.
Recently, a columnist for the New York Times admitted it was not possible to cover Trump objectively, that “you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century.”
What this ultimately translates into is doing the bidding of the Clinton campaign, which the establishment media has done with glee. So, as long as the Clinton campaign peddles paranoia about Russia, regardless of how this hearkens back to the Cold War, expect numerous journalists to follow suit.
Abby Ohlheiser, Accessory after the Fact [source: Washington Post ]
Number 2 : Abby Ohlheiser, the Washington Post, and Facebook, for “Facebook’s trending topics promoted an article ‘truthering’ the Sept. 11 attacks”
ON the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, experts are sensationally claiming it is impossible that the towers were brought down by planes.
Instead, leading engineers believe the Twin Towers may have collapsed due to a “controlled demolition” – something it is claimed there is video evidence to support.
They disagree with the investigation done by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that was launched in August 2002.
Video evidence – which was made by people with a similar theory – has been posted online and seeks to offer proof.
Seriously? This is Abby Ohlheiser?
No, sorry. This is Rachel O’Donoghue, writing for UK readers in the Daily Star, under the headline:
[source: Daily Star ]
Rachel O’Donoghue needs a good copy editor; I’ve fixed her spelling errors, but I haven’t changed any of her words. She continues:
That six-year analysis of what caused the collapse also looked at the lesser known World Trade Centre 7 building, a third building that sat right next to the towers and fell at 5.20pm on the afternoon of September 11 – more than six hours after the two skyscrapers tumbled to the ground.
Its conclusion was that the “WTC Towers and WTC 7 [were] the only known cases of total structural collapse in high-rise buildings where fires played a significant role.”
The fires were apparently sparked by jet fuel that caused huge fires to engulf the upper floors after American Airlines Flights 11 and 175 smashed into the structures in a series of coordinated attacks on the morning of September 11, 2001.
But since the NIST investigation concluded, it has been pointed out that buildings like the World Trade Centre were specifically designed to withstand a fire and huge impacts like a plane hitting them.
What does this have to do with Abby Ohlheiser? Therein lies an interesting tale…
As you may know, Facebook has built its success on a foundation of really good ideas, and one of those ideas was to give their users an easy way to “feel the pulse” of the Internet, so to speak.
The idea is: With a bit of research, one could answer questions such as: What subjects are people talking about? and What are they reading?
The answers to these questions could be used to create a list of links, and that list could appear on the user’s sidebar, under the heading “Trending Topics.”
It was a fantastic idea, and they hired some people to do it, and it worked out great! But there was a problem.
The problem was not in making the list but in keeping it up to date. That was difficult and expensive and required a large staff working more or less continuously, and wasn’t this the sort of thing that could be done by software?
Well, of course it could. But they didn’t have the software, so the software had to be developed, and now it’s ready, or at least it’s ready enough to be deployed. So Facebook has replaced the people who used to maintain “Trending Topics” with a computer program.
Presumably because this software has only recently been developed, it’s still a little bit naive, so to speak.
That is to say, it was probably written to do what it was supposed to do. Stories like this come up frequently, and they illustrate both the strength and the weakness of doing things by computer. A computer does what it’s told: quickly, cheaply, precisely, and reliably. If it does the wrong thing, it usually means it was following the wrong instructions. And there’s the rub. A computer is “smart enough” to follow instructions, but it’s not smart enough to know when its instructions are wrong!
You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) at how often newly developed software is perceived as “faulty” because it was designed according to specifications which did not accurately reflect the needs of the people who had commissioned it. This has happened so often to me personally that I have come to expect it.
In the current instance, the case of Facebook’s “Trending Topics,” the programmers apparently designed the code to search and sort, building its lists according to the criteria I described above, and giving no attention to certain “hidden assumptions” which human editors take for granted.
In particular, the software didn’t know that the facts of 9/11 must be suppressed.
Rachel O’Donoghue’s piece appeared on Tuesday, September 6, and within a few days it attracted so much attention that Facebook’s software noticed it. But the software failed to perceive that the headline, September 11: The footage that ‘proves bombs were planted in Twin Towers’ could potentially be politically volatile.
Needless to say, this is an error that no human editor would ever make, but the software was just too dumb to pick up on the implications of the headline, or to read the article and find out what it said. And nobody was supervising it. The software was “flying solo.”
And it came to pass that early on Friday, September 9, Facebook users found “September 11th Anniversary” on their sidebar, and if they hovered over the topic, they saw this:
click to enlarge [source: Facebook via Abby Ohlheiser]
If they clicked on it, they saw this:
click to enlarge [source: Facebook via Abby Ohlheiser]
And if they clicked on this, they could read Rachel O’Donoghue!
When Abby Ohlheiser found out, she was most unimpressed. As she wrote:
Facebook users looking for more context on why the Sept. 11 terrorist attack anniversary was trending on the platform on Friday were, for a time, directed to a tabloid article claiming that “experts” had footage that “proves bombs were planted in Twin Towers.”
The Daily Star piece promoted by Facebook repeats a lot of common claims from 9/11 “trutherism,” a conspiracy theory based on an idea (unsupported by any actual evidence) that the World Trade Center must have collapsed in 2001 because of a “controlled demolition” and not from the damage caused by the airliner crashes.
This photo shows material being ejected from the South Tower, well below the impact zone and before the collapse of the building. It is prima facie evidence of explosives and therefore must be suppressed. [source: Daily Star ]
Is this correct? Well, no!
Unfortunately for Abby Ohlheiser, the Daily Star piece by Rachel O’Donoghue documents “actual evidence” of explosives in the towers, the existence of which Abby Ohlheiser flatly denies!
Engineers Steven Jones, Robert Korol, Anthony Szamboti and Ted Walter are part of the growing community of experts who say evidence indicates the towers were brought down in a controlled demolition.
They wrote a paper for Europhysics News highlighting four important pieces of evidence pointing to this conclusion.
– Fires are not normally hot enough to heat a massive steel structure enough for it to collapse
– The majority of high rise buildings have sprinkler systems that prevent a fire from getting hot enough to heat steel to a critical level
– Skyscrapers are protected using flame-proof materials
– And they are designed so that if compromised, they do not collapse.
They go on to point out that the towers were actually designed to stay standing in the event of seismic activity, such as earthquakes, and incredibly high winds.
Abby Ohlheiser tells us what happened when she found out Facebook was linking to this article:
Shortly after The Intersect [i.e. Abby Ohlheiser] reached out to Facebook for a comment on the matter, the article disappeared from Facebook’s page for the topic. The lead article switched to a local news piece about a photograph showing beams of light bouncing off One World Trade Center.
“We’re aware a hoax article showed up there,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement on Friday, “and as a temporary step to resolving this we’ve removed the topic.”
The misstep comes weeks after the company removed the human editors who used to describe and curate the site’s trending topics, leaving the task of providing context for those topics to an algorithmically selected article from another site. As this most recent example illustrates, the algorithms haven’t always been up to the task.
“Algorithm” is a fancy name for a set of instructions. And one question which suggests itself is: Have the algorithms really failed in their task?
I can’t help thinking the answer depends on how the task is defined. If the task is to promote the topics that the greatest number of people want to read about, and the articles that the greatest number of people are reading, that’s one thing. If the task is to prefer relatively safe topics and politically acceptable articles, even if fewer people are reading them … well, that’s different.
And I humbly suggest that this difference was the cause of Abby Ohlheiser’s discomfort.
In an alternate universe where we had a free press and free social media, “trending” would mean “trending,” just as “topic” means “topic.” The most popular article under each topic would appear on the sidebar. And if people started learning about facts that the supporters of an absurd and murderous story wanted to suppress, that would be just too bad for them.
In such a universe, when Abby Ohlheiser “reached out” for a comment, the Facebook spokeswoman would say, “We are in the business of facilitating — not impeding — connections between our users and the rest of the world. We will not bow to pressure from politicians, nor from journalists, nor from anybody else. And you will just have to grow up and accept the fact that ‘trending’ means ‘trending,’ which is not always the same as ‘trending and pleasing to you.’ We thank you for your understanding, and we hope that in the future you will not waste any more of your time on similar complaints.”
But of course we live in the real universe, so Facebook declared Rachel O’Donoghue’s piece a “hoax” and removed the link.
Later, according the the spokeswoman, Facebook removed the whole “September 11th Anniversary” topic, which, as you can see in the screenshot preserved by Abby Ohlheiser, was at the time the most popular topic on the list by far, leading an NFL player who had not stood during the national anthem the previous evening by a margin of 340K to 28K.
This photo, which allegedly shows the beginning of a gravity-driven collapse, looks more like a volcano erupting, and therefore must be suppressed. [source: Daily Star ]
Hoax? What hoax? The official story is a hoax!
As Rachel O’Donoghue notes:
John Skilling, the chief structural engineer of the World Trade Centre, even admitted in 1993 – eight years before the disaster – they were made to specifically withstand the force of a jet hitting them.
In an interview with the Seattle Times he said: “Our analysis indicated the biggest problem would be the fact that all the fuel (from the airplane) would dump into the building. There would be a horrendous fire. A lot of people would be killed [but] the building structure would still be there.”
He then commented that in his view, the only thing that could bring them down would be explosives of some sort.
Eyewitness accounts describing the aftermath of the attacks supports the theory explosives were planted inside the towers.
Shortly after the planes hit, numerous interviews were recorded in which people who had been inside the World Trade Centre said that when they ran down from the upper floors they found the lobby had been completely destroyed.
Some also described finding people who had not been upstairs with “their faces blown off”.
Eyewitnesses who describe the lobby as completely destroyed, and statements about people who had “their faces blown off” despite not having been upstairs, pose a grave danger to Abby Ohlheiser and her contention that the “conspiracy theory” is “unsupported by any actual evidence” and threaten Facebook’s assertion that Rachel Donoghue’s article is a hoax.
But all these bits of suppressed evidence certainly corroborate the story Bob McIlvaine tells about his son Bobby.
Had Abby Ohlheiser not made such a big stink about Rachel O’Donoghue’s piece, I probably would not have seen it, and I wouldn’t be able to share the details with you here. But this is Abby Ohlheiser’s game, apparently — monitoring other “reporters” and complaining if they happen to cross one of her invisible lines.
Fortunately, if she can bend them to her will, she’s not content to let the matter rest. She uses her platform to tell everyone what has happened, even if it means bringing attention to the very thing she is trying to suppress.
On September 9, Facebook users were given the false impression that the “Topic” “September 11th Anniversary” was “Trending” because of these photos. Thanks to Abby Ohlheiser, we now know how and why this happened. [source: ABC 7 NY dot Com]
So, even if we stipulate that Abby Ohlheiser prevented a very large number of people from reading Rachel O’Donoghue’s piece, she still qualifies as a fail in my book for two reasons.
First, she gave the world a screenshot showing Rachel O’Donoghue’s headline and the name of her paper, so that everyone could see what had been published and where to find it. Now all her readers — and both of mine — know all about it.
Second, she has shown us very clearly how easily Facebook can be manipulated into suppressing vital evidence in a case of mass murder, and who she is and what she wants, and the same about the Washington Post, and the same about Facebook — which may be important if anyone is still in doubt.
Had Facebook not turned tail and fled, its users would have found it easier to maintain the illusion that they have a free press and free social media. But they might have learned a thing or two as well, and no doubt here lies the perceived danger.
Certainly Facebook’s part in this story proves one thing: Even if you can’t please everybody, you can certainly displease everybody. Those who aren’t angry at Facebook for linking to Rachel O’Donoghue are angry at Facebook for taking down the link and calling the truth a “hoax”. Or at least they should be.
Had Rachel O’Donoghue not mentioned her source, I might not have found the article she was writing about.
It’s from Europhysics News, it was written by Steven Jones, Robert Korol, Anthony Szamboti and Ted Walter. It’s called “15 Years Later: On The Physics Of High-Rise Building Collapses,” and it includes:
– a short explanation of why steel-framed buildings don’t normally collapse, even after long hot fires,
– a short history of building demolition techniques, including the most modern ones,
– an overview of the reasons why they believe the towers were destroyed by modern demolition techniques and not by fires,
– a review of the official investigations, showing how far they were willing to deviate from the normal logical and physical constraints, and how little scrutiny their conclusions can bear, and
– a summary of the eyewitness evidence concerning explosives in the buildings, concluding this way:
Some 156 witnesses, including 135 first responders, have been documented as saying that they saw, heard, and/or felt explosions prior to and/or during the collapses. That the Twin Towers were brought down with explosives appears to have been the initial prevailing view among most first responders. “I thought it was exploding, actually,” said John Coyle, a fire marshal. “Everyone I think at that point still thought these things were blown up”.
When John Coyle says, “Everyone I think at that point still thought these things were blown up,” the words “at that point” and “still” indicate the power of the propaganda machine behind the official story. Even though they lived through it, many of the first responders became convinced in the aftermath that their perceptions of the day’s events had been wrong!
And yet! Popular support for 9/11 Truth endures, even after 15 years of relentless and powerful propaganda, partially because so many people know about the evidence that the perpetrators and their accessories after the fact are trying to suppress.
We can see what they’re trying to do. We can figure out why. And we’re not going away anytime soon.
Sorry, Abby! You lose! And so does your sad excuse for a newspaper.
Sorry, Washington Post ! If you don’t tell the truth about something important soon, I may quit letting you use my initials!
Sorry, Facebook, You lose, too! Everyone can see where you stand and why. “Oh, my!”
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present: three pathetic losers on the wrong side of a bloody red line marked “mass murder for profit!”
As I’ve been saying:
The facts must be suppressed, and the people who are trying to gather and disseminate those facts must be suppressed, and that is the one and only thing that matters to these people. And why? Why would you hide the crime unless you were trying to protect the criminals?
After several years of arming and supporting Syrian rebel groups that often collaborated with Al Qaeda’s Nusra terror affiliate, the United States launched an illegal invasion of Syria two years ago with airstrikes supposedly aimed at Al Qaeda’s Islamic State spin-off, but on Saturday that air war killed scores of Syrian soldiers and aided an Islamic State victory.
Yet, the major American news outlets treat this extraordinary set of circumstances as barely newsworthy, operating with an imperial hubris that holds any U.S. invasion or subversion of another country as simply, ho-hum, the way things are supposed to work.
On Monday, The Washington Post dismissed the devastating airstrike at Deir al-Zour killing at least 62 Syrian soldiers as one of several “mishaps” that had occurred over the past week and jeopardized a limited ceasefire, arranged between Russia and the Obama administration.
But the fact that the U.S. and several allies have been routinely violating Syrian sovereign airspace to carry out attacks was not even an issue, nor is it a scandal that the U.S. military and CIA have been arming and training Syrian rebels. In the world of Official Washington, the United States has the right to intervene anywhere, anytime, for whatever reason it chooses.
President Barack Obama has even publicly talked about authorizing military strikes in seven different countries, including Syria, and yet he is deemed “weak” for not invading more countries, at least more decisively.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has vowed to engage in a larger invasion of Syria, albeit wrapping the aggression in pretty words like “safe zone” and “no-fly zone,” but it would mean bombing and killing more Syrian soldiers.
As Secretary of State, Clinton used similar language to justify invading Libya and implementing a “regime change” that killed the nation’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and unleashed five years of violent political chaos.
If you were living in a truly democratic country with a truly professional news media, you would think that this evolution of the United States into a rogue superpower violating pretty much every international law and treaty of the post-World War II era would be a regular topic of debate and criticism.
Those crimes include horrendous acts against people, such as torture and other violations of the Geneva Conventions, as well as acts of aggression, which the Nuremberg Tribunals deemed “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Justifying ‘Regime Change’
Yet, instead of insisting on accountability for American leaders who have committed these crimes, the mainstream U.S. news media spreads pro-war propaganda against any nation or leader that refuses to bend to America’s imperial demands. In other words, the U.S. news media creates the rationalizations and arranges the public acquiescence for U.S. invasions and subversions of other countries.
In particular, The New York Times now reeks of propaganda, especially aimed at two of the current targets, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin. With all pretenses of professionalism cast aside, the Times has descended into the status of a crude propaganda organ.
On Sunday, the Times described Assad’s visit to a town recently regained from the rebels this way: “Assad Smiles as Syria Burns, His Grip and Impunity Secure.” That was the headline. The article began:
“On the day after his 51st birthday, Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, took a victory lap through the dusty streets of a destroyed and empty rebel town that his forces had starved into submission.
“Smiling, with his shirt open at the collar, he led officials in dark suits past deserted shops and bombed-out buildings before telling a reporter that — despite a cease-fire announced by the United States and Russia — he was committed ‘to taking back all areas from the terrorists.’ When he says terrorists, he means all who oppose him.”
The story by Ben Hubbard continues in that vein, although oddly the accompanying photograph doesn’t show Assad smiling but rather assessing the scene with a rather grim visage.
But let’s unpack the propaganda elements of this front-page story, which is clearly intended to paint Assad as a sadistic monster, rather than a leader fighting a foreign-funded-and-armed rebel movement that includes radical jihadists, including powerful groups linked to Al Qaeda and others forces operating under the banner of the brutal Islamic State.
The reader is supposed to recoil at Assad who “smiles as Syria burns” and who is rejoicing over his “impunity.” Then, there’s the apparent suggestion that his trip to Daraya was part of his birthday celebration so he could take “a victory lap” while “smiling, with his shirt open at the collar,” although why his collar is relevant is hard to understand. Next, there is the argumentative claim that when Assad refers to “terrorists” that “he means all who oppose him.”
As much as the U.S. news media likes to pride itself on its “objectivity,” it is hard to see how this article meets any such standard, especially when the Times takes a far different posture when explaining, excusing or ignoring U.S. forces slaughtering countless civilians in multiple countries for decades and at a rapid clip over the past 15 years. If anyone operates with “impunity,” it has been the leadership of the U.S. government.
On Sunday, the Times also asserted as flat fact the dubious charge against Assad that he has “hit civilians with gas attacks” when the most notorious case – the sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013 – appears now to have been carried out by rebels trying to trick the United States into intervening more directly on their side.
A recent United Nations report blaming Syrian forces for two later attacks involving chlorine was based on slim evidence and produced under great political pressure to reach that conclusion – while ignoring the absence of any logical reason for the Syrian forces to have used such an ineffective weapon and brushing aside testimony about rebels staging other gas attacks.
More often than not, U.N. officials bend to the will of the American superpower, failing to challenge any of the U.S.-sponsored invasions over recent decades, including something as blatantly illegal as the Iraq War. After all, for an aspiring U.N. bureaucrat, it’s clear which side his career bread is buttered.
We find ourselves in a world in which propaganda has come to dominate the foreign policy debates and – despite the belated admissions of lies used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Libya – the U.S. media insists on labeling anyone who questions the latest round of propaganda as a “fill-in-the-blank apologist.”
So, Americans who want to maintain their mainstream status shy away from contesting what the U.S. government and its complicit media assert, despite their proven track record of deceit. This is not just a case of being fooled once; it is being fooled over and over with a seemingly endless willingness to accept dubious assertion after dubious assertion.
In the same Sunday edition which carried the creepy portrayal about Assad, the Times’ Neil MacFarquhar pre-disparaged Russia’s parliamentary elections because the Russian people were showing little support for the Times’ beloved “liberals,” the political descendants of the Russians who collaborated with the U.S.-driven “shock therapy” of the 1990s, a policy that impoverished a vast number of Russians and drastically reduced life expectancy.
Why those Russian “liberals” have such limited support from the populace is a dark mystery to the mainstream U.S. news media, which also can’t figure out why Putin is popular for significantly reversing the “shock therapy” policies and restoring Russian life expectancy to its previous levels. No, it can’t be that Putin delivered for the Russian people; the only answer must be Putin’s “totalitarianism.”
The New York Times and Washington Post have been particularly outraged over Russia’s crackdown on “grassroots” organizations that are funded by the U.S. government or by billionaire financial speculator George Soros, who has publicly urged the overthrow of Putin. So has Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which funnels U.S. government cash to political and media operations abroad.
The Post has decried a Russian legal requirement that political entities taking money from foreign sources must register as “foreign agents” and complains that such a designation discredits these organizations. What the Post doesn’t tell its readers is that the Russian law is modeled after the American “Foreign Agent Registration Act,” which likewise requires people trying to influence policy in favor of a foreign sponsor to register with the Justice Department.
Nor do the Times and Post acknowledge the long history of the U.S. government funding foreign groups, either overtly or covertly, to destabilize targeted regimes. These U.S.-financed groups often do act as “fifth columnists” spreading propaganda designed to undermine the credibility of the leaders, whether that’s Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 or Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
That’s not to say that these targeted leaders were or are perfect. They are often far from it. But the essence of propaganda is to apply selective outrage and exaggeration to the leader that is marked for removal. Similar treatment does not apply to U.S.-favored leaders.
The pattern of the Times and Post is also to engage in ridicule when someone in a targeted country actually perceives what is going on. The correct perception is then dismissed as some sort of paranoid conspiracy theory.
Take, for example, the Times’ MacFarquhar describing a pamphlet and speeches from Nikolai Merkushkin, the governor of Russian region of Samara, that MacFarquhar says “cast the blame for Russia’s economic woes not on economic mismanagement or Western sanctions after the annexation of Crimea but on a plot by President Obama and the C.I.A. to undermine Russia.”
The Times article continues: “Opposition candidates are a fifth column on the payroll of the State Department and part of the scheme, the pamphlet said, along with the collapse in oil prices and the emergence of the Islamic State. Mr. Putin is on the case, not least by rebuilding the military, the pamphlet said, noting that ‘our country forces others to take it seriously and this is something that American politicians don’t like very much.’”
Yet, despite the Times’ mocking tone, the pamphlet’s perceptions are largely accurate. There can be little doubt that the U.S. government through funding of anti-Putin groups inside Russia and organizing punishing sanctions against Russia, is trying to make the Russian economy scream, destabilize the Russian government and encourage a “regime change” in Moscow.
Further, President Obama has personally bristled at Russia’s attempts to reassert itself as an important world player, demeaning the former Cold War superpower as only a “regional power.” The U.S. government has even tread on that “regional” status by helping to orchestrate the 2014 putsch that overthrew Ukraine’s elected President Yanukovych on Russia’s border.
After quickly calling the coup regime “legitimate,” the U.S. government supported attempts to crush resistance in the south and east which were Yanukovych’s political strongholds. Crimea’s overwhelming decision to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia was deemed by The New York Times a Russian “invasion” although the Russian troops that helped protect Crimea’s referendum were already inside Crimea as part of the Sevastopol basing agreement.
The U.S.-backed Kiev regime’s attempt to annihilate resistance from ethnic Russians in the east – through what was called an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” that has slaughtered thousands of eastern Ukrainians – also had American backing. Russian assistance to these rebels is described in the mainstream U.S. media as Russian “aggression.”
Oddly, U.S. news outlets find nothing objectionable about the U.S. government launching military strikes in countries halfway around the world, including the recent massacre of scores of Syrian soldiers, but are outraged that Russia provided military help to ethnic Russians being faced with annihilation on Russia’s border.
Because of the Ukraine crisis, Hillary Clinton likened Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler.
Seeing No Coup
For its part, The New York Times concluded that there had been no coup in Ukraine – by ignoring the evidence that there was one, including an intercepted pre-coup telephone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should be made the new leaders of Ukraine.
The evidence of a coup was so clear that George Friedman, founder of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, said in an interview that the overthrow of Yanukovych “really was the most blatant coup in history.” But the Times put protecting the legitimacy of the post-coup regime ahead of its journalistic responsibilities to its readers, as it has done repeatedly regarding Ukraine.
Another stunning case of double standards has been the mainstream U.S. media’s apoplexy about alleged Russian hacking into emails of prominent Americans and then making them public. These blame-Russia articles have failed to present any solid evidence that the Russians were responsible and also fail to note that the United States leads the world in using electronic means to vacuum up personal secrets about foreign leaders as well as average citizens.
In a number of cases, these secrets appear to have been used to blackmail foreign leaders to get them to comply with U.S. demands, such as the case in 2002-03 of the George W. Bush administration spying on diplomats on the U.N. Security Council to coerce their votes on authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a ploy that failed.
U.S. intelligence also tapped the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose cooperation on Ukraine and other issues of the New Cold War is important to Washington. And then there’s the massive collection of data about virtually everybody on the planet, including U.S. citizens, over the past 15 years during the “war on terror.”
Earlier this year, the mainstream U.S. news media congratulated itself over its use of hacked private business data from a Panama-based law firm, material that was said to implicate Putin in some shady business dealings even though his name never showed up in the documents. No one in the mainstream media protested that leak or questioned who did the hacking.
Such mainstream media bias is pervasive. In the case of Sunday’s Russian elections, the Times seems determined to maintain the fiction that the Russian people don’t really support Putin, despite consistent opinion polls showing him with some 80 percent approval.
In the Times’ version of reality, Putin’s popularity must be some kind of trick, a case of totalitarian repression of the Russian people, which would be fixed if only the U.S.-backed “liberals” were allowed to keep getting money from NED and Soros without having to divulge where the funds were coming from.
The fact that Russians, like Americans, will rally around their national leader when they perceive the country to be under assault – think, George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks – is another reality that the Times can’t tolerate. No, the explanation must be mind control.
The troubling reality is that the Times, Post and other leading American news outlets have glibly applied one set of standards on “enemies” and another on the U.S. government. The Times may charge that Bashar al-Assad has “impunity” for his abuses, but what about the multitude of U.S. leaders – and, yes, journalists – who have their hands covered in the blood of Iraqis, Libyans, Afghans, Yemenis, Syrians, Somalis and other nationalities. Where is their accountability?
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Hillary and the neocons know who to blame for Trump
Many issues characteristically beloved by Democrats are being raised to disparage Donald Trump. The man has been maligned as a racist, a bigot, as unfit for office and even described as a psychopath, presumably in contrast to Hillary Clinton who loves people of every color and shape as long as they are not living next door and will faithfully vote Democratic after they are afforded entry into the United States and amnestied. Hillary, who has held nearly every senior government office that a human being can reasonably aspire to but the one she is currently lusting after, is unlike Trump only sufficiently deranged to kill people if they live somewhere in the third world and can’t do anything about it.
A persistent line emanating from the “national security” experts who have flocked to Hillary’s side is that Trump would threaten the safety of the United States. That many of the crossovers are neoconservatives who have brought us a number of unnecessary wars in the past fifteen years is pretty much ignored by the media just as the argument that the U.S. has a presumptive right to intervene militarily wherever and whenever it chooses is generally accepted. The latest talking head who stands firm for national security is Paul Wolfowitz, who was interviewed by the German magazine Der Spiegel on August 26th. Some readers might recall Wolfowitz. He was the number two at the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld. A forceful advocate for the Iraq war, he is famous for having observed that the Iraqis would welcome the American invasion and that the war would pay for itself rather than the $5 plus trillion that it has actually cost. How he came to the latter erroneous conclusion is not very clear, though it may have had something to do with looting Iraq’s oil reserves and exporting them through a pipeline to Israel, an idea that was once floated by Wolfowitz’s godfather Richard Perle.
Wolfowitz has never been apologetic. He now claims that he was deluded by the information provided by the intelligence establishment into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, an odd claim as he himself was largely responsible for the bad intelligence through his setting-up of the Office of Special Plans, a separate organization within the Pentagon intended to critique and supplement what the CIA was producing.
Wolfowitz’s zeal was rewarded by George W. Bush, who appointed him head of the World Bank, a position that he was forced to relinquish when it was determined that he had been concealing his relationship with a woman who worked for him as well as promoting her far beyond organizational guidelines. He was also accused of general mismanagement. Some things apparently never change.
In any event, Wolfowitz, who has now characteristically found yet another comfortable and well remunerated niche at the largely defense contractor funded American Enterprise Institute, has finally joined the neocon host that is working for a Hillary victory in November. They understand that it is a bread-and-butter issue. Hillary is clearly predisposed to continue the kinds of mindlessly aggressive policies that have made Neoconservatism Inc. and its vibrant cash flow possible in the first place.
More to the point however, in the real world both Hillary and Wolfie sometimes visit, there is renewed enthusiasm for jumping on the hate Russia bandwagon. To belong to that club one has to repeatedly accuse Moscow of interfering in American politics, preferably without any evidence at all to support the claim. Not surprisingly, the reality is actually quite different. It is the Hillary camp that has injected Russia into the campaign debate to use it as a bludgeon to beat on Trump. They do so without considering that regular excoriation of Russia in the media and from various political pulpits might actually have consequences.
Wolfowitz believes it is weakness in a leader to avoid confrontation with adversaries. He writes that Trump’s apparent desire to “step back” from crises in the world makes him “Obama squared.” It is a principal reason why he will likely be voting for Clinton in November. He describes Trump as a security risk precisely “because he admires Putin” and is “unconcerned about the Russian aggression in Ukraine. By doing this he tells them that they can go ahead and do what they are doing. That is dangerous” as “Putin is behaving in a very dangerous way.”
In a recent speech Hillary Clinton also piled on Russia while affirming that she is now the candidate of “American exceptionalism,” an obvious ploy to attract even more neocons and dissident GOP hawks. Hillary has also denounced Trump’s appearance on stage with Nigel Farage, who headed the successful British Brexit movement. Hillary declared Farage to be both racist and sexist before castigating him for being a stooge of the Russians. His crime? Appearing on Russia Today television, where the author of this piece has also appeared numerous times.
So Farage and Trump are together part of Hillary’s alleged vast right wing conspiracy and the strings for that are being pulled by Moscow. She went on to call Putin “the godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism” before launching an attack on Trump personally, claiming that he “heaps praise on Putin and embraces pro-Russian policies.” And he does that because there is something “wrong” about him: he is part of a “paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment.”
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook took the argument still further, observing that “Trump is just a puppet of the Kremlin,” taking the claim that Trump is a Putin collaborator and elevating it to make him a true Manchurian candidate, a tool of what used to be Godless communism but is now something more like a revival of the Holy Russian Empire run by the KGB.
Justin Raimondo notes that putting all the bits together one comes up with a Hillary view that her nemesis Donald Trump is the face of a “Vast Right Wing Pro-Russian Conspiracy,” making him an enemy that comprises both domestic and international threats, producing a target rich environment for the slings and arrows produced by Hillary and her hack speech writers.
The Clinton view of Putin is particularly ironic as it runs against the frequently expressed Russian government desire to work together with Washington to solve mutual problems, to include dealing with Islamic terrorism and stabilizing the Middle East. Putin in fact pulled President Barack Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire in 2013 when the latter got caught in a series of lies relating to Syria’s alleged chemical weapons.
It would be bad enough if a delusional Hillary Clinton were alone, a voice crying in the wilderness, but she is not. She is supported by a growing number of neoconservatives as well as the Establishment Dems in her own party. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has called on the FBI to investigate whether the Putin government is trying to undermine the November ballot, implying that they might try to cyber-meddle with election results. Of course, if Hillary wins as expected he will fade back into the woodwork and stop complaining.
And then there is the media, which is playing its part by fearmongering. On August 18th The reliably neocon Washington Post featured two op-eds, one written by David Kramer and the other by Angela Stent. Kramer, who is a Senior Director with the McCain Institute for International Leadership and an ex-George W. Bush official, posits that “Russia is now a threat. The U.S. should treat it like one.” That an ex-GWB official should expound on sound policy from the pulpit of an institute reflecting the values of Senator John McCain might be considered comical, but Kramer asserts that “Russia under Vladimir Putin is an authoritarian, kleptocratic regime that poses a serious threat to our values, interests and allies. We should contain and deter Russian aggression…”
Kramer cites the familiar examples of Ukraine, Crimea and Syria as evidence of Putin’s bestiality but his descriptions are curiously one-sided, making it appear that Russia is invariably purely malevolent while all the alleged victims are peace loving and high minded democrats-to-be. Such thinking is, of course, nonsense. Putin is a realist and a nationalist who is well aware of his country’s limitations but who is willing to protect his genuine interests. Would that President Hillary Clinton might be intelligent enough to do the same.
In the second op-ed Stent, who directs the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University, blames Russia for failing to integrate into “Euro-Atlantic and global institutions” while also “thwart[ing]” America’s “commitment to create a peaceful, rules-based post-Cold War order.”
I must have missed some of the recent history that Stent recalls so unambiguously, possibly because I was somehow misled by the reported looting of Russia by the west and the western aligned oligarchs as well as the more recent interference in the country’s internal affairs by Congress and the White House. She also seems unaware that the United States has a far worse international record than Russian since 1991, invading Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya while also interfering in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. And, oh yes, there was also that little matter of expanding NATO up to Russia’s doorstep, which just might seem provocative, as well as the direct encouragement of anti-Russian sentiment and worse in Georgia and Ukraine.
Stent admits that she does not know if Moscow actually hacked U.S. computers or released embarrassing information about candidates, but she nevertheless is confident enough to see Russia as “clearly intend[ing] to sow doubts about the legitimacy of our democratic election process.” What to do? Forget about any reset with Putin and instead consider building up military strength to “deter any further attempts by Russia to destabilize its neighboring countries.”
One has to wonder what stimulants they are serving in the coffee at the McCain Center and Georgetown, but it really doesn’t matter as the Wolfowitzes, Clintons, Kramers and Stents of this world are all bottom feeding out of the same gravy boat. For them, a world in conflict with a genuinely dangerous enemy that keeps them employed is a highly valuable commodity. The only problem is that Russia might really, really get pissed off by all the flatulence being directed at it. That could become very dangerous.
After anxiously and incessantly angling for a hardcore neoconservative to take the Republican presidential nomination, the Washington Post’s online blogger Jennifer Rubin has made the long journey home. Rebuffed by Republican voters who selected Donald Trump as their candidate, Rubin’s gunpowder breath is now desperately seeking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s ear.
Her message? This damned Iran deal is improving US/Iran relations and that is completely intolerable. “Hillary: Please bomb something over there,” Rubin screeches, in her latest installment of the neocon chronicles.
Why is Rubin so hot and bothered? Well, Secretary of State John Kerry has dared to encourage some business investment in Iran after the nuclear deal has begun paying dividends in more stable relations. Doing business is always preferable to sanctions and blockades because it makes war less likely. Each side has too much to lose when there are economic interests at stake so each side will act with more caution. As when a Chinese incident with a US spy plane led the damaged US plane to land in China, yet both sides realized that economic relations were sufficiently important that the potentially volatile situation needed to be carefully walked back from the brink of conflict.
War kills economic opportunities for the average people on both sides, but it also produces unique financial opportunities for the specially connected. Like the people around Jennifer Rubin.
Rubin is given a little corner of Washington’s “paper of record,” but she is either so ill-formed when it comes to the basic situation in Syria that one wonders why she has such a platform when surely there are plenty of better-informed high school students who could fill the slot… or she is purposely obfuscating from her little perch in which case the Washington Post is a witting party to her deception.
For example she writes this:
This week we have also learned that as many as 100,000 Iranian-backed militia members are fighting in Iraq…
But she does not inform her readers that these Iranian militia members are in fact fighting ISIS in Iraq. In other words, they are helping us defeat our sworn enemy. While Washington is pained to admit it, even John Kerry said not long ago that having so many additional fighters taking on ISIS in Iraq is “helpful” to America’s efforts to defeat ISIS.
Rubin would clearly prefer an ISIS victory to accepting the assistance of an Iran that also views the establishment of an anti-Iranian jihadist Caliphate in its backyard an existential threat.
Again Rubin plays fast and loose with the truth when she writes:
Russia is expanding its alliance with Iran and influence in Syria in unprecedented ways. Russian planes are now taking off directly from Iran to bomb Syrian targets…
What she does not tell us once again is that those Russian planes are bombing ISIS and al-Qaeda (those guys who attacked us on 9/11). Does anyone else wonder why she objects to the Russians bombing ISIS and al-Qaeda? Particularly as the US seems to be letting them get away at every possible opportunity.
What is to be done, in the mind of Rubin?
[R]ather than pleading with Russia, we can make clear that we will be establishing a new policy of direct action against the Assad regime, including establishment of safe havens. Vladimir Putin has had a risk-free policy of aggression up to now; that should change.
So, Rubin would have the US attack a Syrian government that has fought for five years against a foreign, radical jihadist insurgency and directly confront a Russia that has the same enemy in the process.
Who’s side is she on? Ours or the terrorists’?
Evidently we can partner with Stalin to defeat Hitler but we dare not partner with Putin to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda. The neocons are clearly high on their own vapors. Rubin is first in line for neocon bong hits.
More fraud from Climate Central.
The Washington Post reports:
By Jason Samenow July 14
The temperature Thursday in Washington soared to 98 degrees, the hottest so far this summer. The heat index, which factors in humidity, registered 104 degrees.
Get used to it.
An analysis released Wednesday by Climate Central, a nonprofit science communication group based in Princeton, N.J., says these kinds of brutally hot and humid days are becoming more common.
Climate Central’s States at Risk project, featuring an interactive website, not only analyzed historical heat and humidity data to document observed trends but also, using climate models, projected how hot and humid days will evolve into the future.
All data point toward steamier times ahead.
Hot and humid days up substantially since 1970
The District is now sweltering in 95-degree heat on 7.5 more days per year than it did in 1970, Climate Central says. In 1970, D.C. averaged seven or eight 95-degree (or hotter) days in a typical year. Now the number is closer to 15. In the scorching summer of 2012, we had a record-tying 28 such days.
The nearest long running station to Washington is Laurel, in Maryland, just 17 miles away.
The USHCN whisker plot of daily maximum temperatures shows that daily temperatures are not increasing, and were actually highest in the 1930s.
It is easy to see why Climate Central used 1970 as their starting point.
As CDIAC show below, most daily summer temperature records in Maryland were set prior to 1960, while the cold 1970s is plainly evident. (Bear in mind, these daily records include ties, so the probability of a record should be the same in every decade, assuming an unchanged climate).
This carefully constructed deception is all designed to convince us that summers will become increasingly hot in the future, as the article goes on to state:
D.C.’s summer climate to resemble South Texas?
Using projections of summer warming by 2100, Climate Central says D.C.’s climate will, by then, most resemble today’s typical summer environs in Pharr, Texas — a Mexico border town. That is, it projects D.C.’s average summer high temperature to rise from roughly 87 degrees to 97 degrees.
Of course, such projections are based on climate models which assume the emissions of greenhouse gases will continue unabated through the end of the century. If the global community finds ways to cut emissions, the warming would not be this steep. Also, if the climate is less sensitive to increases in greenhouse gases than assumed by these models, the warming would be less.
But, observed data make it clear the D.C. area is on a warming trajectory.
Climate Central’s analysis documents similar trends in hundreds of metro areas across the Lower 48. “Using several measures, our findings show that most U.S. cities have already experienced large increases in extreme summer heat and absolute humidity, which together can cause serious heat-related health problems,” the analysis states.
The Washington Post article is written by Jason Samenow, their weather editor and chief meteorologist of the Capital Weather Gang. He should be ashamed of himself for publishing such blatant propaganda from the politically motivated Climate Central.
Indeed, his failure to carry out even the most basic checks on their grossly misleading analysis surely raises questions about whether he has the ability and objectivity to do his job properly.
In a fresh embarrassment for The New York Times, a photographic forensic expert has debunked a new amateurish, anti-Russian analysis of satellite photos related to the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, labeling the work “a fraud.”
Last Saturday, on the eve of the second anniversary of the tragedy that claimed 298 lives, the Times touted the amateur analysis asserting that the Russian government had manipulated two satellite photos that revealed Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine at the time of the shoot-down.
The clear implication of the article by Andrew E. Kramer was that the Russians were covering up their complicity in shooting down the civilian airliner by allegedly doctoring photos to shift the blame to the Ukrainian military. Beyond citing this analysis by armscontrolwonk.com, Kramer noted that the “citizen journalists” at Bellingcat had reached the same conclusion earlier.
But Kramer and the Times left out that the earlier Bellingcat analysis was thoroughly torn apart by photo-forensic experts including Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of the FotoForensics digital image analytical tool that Bellingcat had used. Over the past week, Bellingcat has been aggressively pushing the new analysis by armscontrolwonk.com, with which Bellingcat has close relationships.
This past week, Krawetz and other forensic specialists began weighing in on the new analysis and concluding that it suffered the same fundamental errors as the previous analysis, albeit using a different analytical tool. Given Bellingcat’s promotion of this second analysis by a group with links to Bellingcat and its founder Eliot Higgins, Krawetz viewed the two analyses as essentially coming from the same place, Bellingcat.
“Jumping to the wrong conclusion one time can be due to ignorance,” Krawetz explained in a blog post. “However, using a different tool on the same data that yields similar results, and still jumping to the same wrong conclusion is intentional misrepresentation and deception. It is fraud.”
A Pattern of Error
Krawetz and other experts found that innocuous changes to the photos, such as adding a word box and saving the images into different formats, would explain the anomalies that Bellingcat and its pals at armscontrolwonk.com detected. That was the key mistake that Krawetz spotted last year in dissecting Bellingcat’s faulty analysis.
Krawetz wrote: “Last year, a group called ‘Bellingcat’ came out with a report about flight MH17, which was shot down near the Ukraine/Russia border. In their report, they used FotoForensics to justify their claims. However, as I pointed out in my blog entry, they used it wrong. The big problems in their report:
“–Ignoring quality. They evaluated pictures from questionable sources. These were low quality pictures that had undergone scaling, cropping, and annotations.
“–Seeing things. Even with the output from the analysis tools, they jumped to conclusions that were not supported by the data.
“–Bait and switch. Their report claimed one thing, then tried to justify it with analysis that showed something different.
“Bellingcat recently came out with a second report. The image analysis portion of their report heavily relied on a program called ‘Tungstène’. … With the scientific approach, it does not matter who’s tool you use. A conclusion should be repeatable though multiple tools and multiple algorithms.
“One of the pictures that they ran though Tungstène was the same cloud picture that they used with ELA [error level analysis]. And unsurprisingly, it generated similar results — results that should be interpreted as low quality and multiple resaves. … These results denote a low quality picture and multiple resaves, and not an intentional alteration as Bellingcat concluded.
“Just like last year, Bellingcat claimed that Tungstène highlighted indications of alterations in the same places that they claimed to see alterations in the ELA result. Bellingcat used the same low quality data on different tools and jumped to the same incorrect conclusion.”
Although Krawetz posted his dissection of the new analysis on Thursday, he began expressing his concerns shortly after the Times article appeared. That prompted Higgins and the Bellingcat crew to begin a Twitter campaign to discredit Krawetz and me (for also citing problems with the Times article and the analysis).
When one of Higgins’s allies mentioned my initial story on the problematic photo analysis, Krawetz noted that my observations supported his position that Bellingcat had mishandled the analysis (although at the time I was unaware of Krawetz’s criticism).
Higgins responded to Krawetz, “he [Parry] doesn’t recognize you’re a hack. Probably because he’s a hack too.”
Further insulting Krawetz, Higgins mocked his review of the photo analyses by writing: “all he has is ‘because I say so’, all mouth no trousers.”
Spoiled by Praise
Apparently, Higgins, who operates out of Leicester, England, has grown spoiled by all the praise lavished on him by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and other mainstream publications despite the fact that Bellingcat’s record for accuracy is a poor one.
For instance, in his first big splash, Higgins echoed U.S. propaganda in Syria about the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack — blaming it on President Bashar al-Assad — but was forced to back down from his assessment when aeronautical experts revealed that the sarin-carrying missile had a range of only about two kilometers, much shorter than Higgins had surmised in blaming the attack on Syrian government forces. (Despite that key error, Higgins continued claiming the Syrian government was guilty.)
Higgins also gave the Australian “60 Minutes” program a location in eastern Ukraine where a “getaway” Buk missile battery was supposedly videoed en route back to Russia, except that when the news crew got there the landmarks didn’t match up, causing the program to have to rely on sleight-of-hand editing to deceive its viewers.
When I noted the discrepancies and posted screenshots from the “60 Minutes” program to demonstrate the falsehoods, “60 Minutes” launched a campaign of insults against me and resorted to more video tricks and outright journalistic fraud in defense of Higgins’s faulty information.
This pattern of false claims and even fraud to promote these stories has not stopped the mainstream Western press from showering Higgins and Bellingcat with acclaim. It probably doesn’t hurt that Bellingcat’s “disclosures” always dovetail with the propaganda themes emanating from Western governments.
It also turns out that both Higgins and “armscontrolwonk.com” have crossover in personnel, such as Melissa Hanham, a co-author of the MH-17 report who also writes for Bellingcat, as does Aaron Stein, who joined in promoting Higgins’s work at “armscontrolwonk.com.”
The two groups also have links to the pro-NATO think tank, Atlantic Council, which has been at the forefront of pushing NATO’s new Cold War with Russia. Higgins is now listed as a “nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative” and armscontrolwonk.com describes Stein as a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
Armscontrolwonk.com is run by nuclear proliferation specialists from the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey, but they appear to have no special expertise in photographic forensics.
A Deeper Problem
But the problem goes much deeper than a couple of Web sites and bloggers who find it professionally uplifting to reinforce propaganda themes from NATO and other Western interests. The bigger danger is the role played by the mainstream media in creating an echo chamber to amplify the disinformation coming from these amateurs.
Just as The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major outlets swallowed the bogus stories about Iraq’s WMD in 2002-2003, they have happily dined on similarly dubious fare about Syria, Ukraine and Russia.
And just as with the Iraq disaster, when those of us who challenged the WMD “group think” were dismissed as “Saddam apologists,” now we’re called “Assad apologists” or “Putin apologists” or simply “hacks” who are “all mouth, no trousers” – whatever that means.
For instance, in 2013 regarding Syria, the Times ran a front-page story using a “vector analysis” to trace the sarin attack back to a Syrian military base about nine kilometers away, but the discovery of the sarin missile’s much shorter range forced the Times to recant its story, which had paralleled what Higgins was writing.
Then, in its eagerness to convey anti-Russian propaganda regarding Ukraine in 2014, the Times even returned to a reporter from its Iraq-falsehood days. Michael R. Gordon, who co-authored the infamous “aluminum tubes” article in 2002 that pushed the bogus claim that Iraq was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program, accepted some new disinformation from the State Department that cited photos supposedly showing Russian soldiers in Russia and then reappearing in Ukraine.
Any serious journalist would have recognized the holes in the story since it wasn’t clear where the photos were taken or whether the blurry images were even the same people, but that didn’t give the Times pause. The article led the front page.
However, only two days later, the scoop blew up when it turned out that a key photo supposedly showing a group of soldiers in Russia, who then reappeared in eastern Ukraine, was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the entire story.
But these embarrassments have not dampened the Times’ enthusiasm for dishing out anti-Russian propaganda whenever possible. Yet, one new twist is that the Times doesn’t just take false claims directly from the U.S. government; it also draws from hip “citizen journalism” Web sites like Bellingcat.
In a world where no one believes what governments say the smart new way to disseminate propaganda is through such “outsiders.”
So, the Times’ Kramer was surely thrilled to get fed a new story off the Web that claimed the Russians had doctored satellite photographs of Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine just before the MH-17 shoot-down.
Instead of questioning the photo-forensic expertise of these nuclear proliferation specialists at armscontrolwonk.com, Kramer simply laid out their findings as further corroboration of Bellingcat’s earlier claims. Kramer also mocked the Russians for trying to cover their tracks with “conspiracy theories.”
Ignoring Official Evidence
But there was another key piece of evidence that the Times was hiding from its readers: documentary evidence from Western intelligence that the Ukrainian military did have powerful anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, and that the ethnic Russian rebels didn’t.
In a report released last October, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.” MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity:
“Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”
Since Dutch intelligence is part of the NATO intelligence apparatus, this report means that NATO and presumably U.S. intelligence share the same viewpoint. Thus, the Russians would have little reason to fake their satellite photos showing Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine if the West’s satellite photos were showing the same thing.
But there is a reason why the Times and other major mainstream publications have ignored this official Dutch government document – because if it’s correct, then it means that the only people who could have shot down MH-17 belong to the Ukrainian military. That would turn upside-down the desired propaganda narrative blaming the Russians.
Yet, that blackout of the Dutch report means that the Times and other Western outlets have abandoned their journalistic responsibilities to present all relevant evidence on an issue of grave importance – bringing to justice the killers of 298 innocent people. Rather than “all the news that’s fit to print,” the Times is stacking the case by leaving out evidence that goes in the “wrong direction.”
Of course, there may be some explanation for how both NATO and Russian intelligence could come to the same “mistaken” conclusion that only the Ukrainian military could have shot down MH-17, but the Times and the rest of the Western mainstream media can’t ethically just pretend the evidence doesn’t exist.
Unless, of course, your real purpose is to disseminate propaganda, not produce journalism. Then, I suppose the behavior of the Times, other MSM publications and, yes, Bellingcat makes a lot of sense.
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).
It’s unnerving to realize that the NATO alliance – bristling with an unprecedented array of weapons including a vast nuclear arsenal – has lost its collective mind. Perhaps it’s more reassuring to think that NATO simply feels compelled to publicly embrace its deceptive “strategic communications” so gullible Western citizens will be kept believing its lies are truth.
But here were the leaders of major Western “democracies” lining up to endorse a Warsaw Summit Communiqué condemning “Russia’s aggressive actions” while knowing that these claims were unsupported by their own intelligence agencies.
The leaders – at least the key ones – know that there is no credible intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked the Ukraine crisis in 2014 or that he has any plans to invade the Baltic states, despite the fact that nearly every “important person” in Official Washington and other Western capitals declares the opposite of this to be reality.
But there have been a few moments when the truth has surfaced. For instance, in the days leading up to the just-completed NATO summit in Warsaw, General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, divulged that the deployment of NATO military battalions in the Baltic states was a political, rather than military, act.
“It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing,” Pavel told a news conference.
What Pavel blurted out was what I have been told by intelligence sources over the past two-plus years – that the endless drumbeat of Western media reports about “Russian aggression” results from a clever demonization campaign against Putin and a classic Washington “group think” rather than from a careful intelligence analysis.
Ironically, however, just days after the release of the British Chilcot report documenting how a similar propaganda campaign led the world into the disastrous Iraq War – with its deadly consequences still reverberating through a destabilized Mideast and into an unnerved Europe – NATO reenacts the basic failure of that earlier catastrophe, except now upping the ante into a confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.
The Warsaw communiqué – signed by leaders including President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron – ignores the reality of what happened in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014 and thus generates an inside-out narrative.
Instead of reprising the West’s vacuous propaganda themes, Obama and the other leaders could have done something novel and told the truth, but that apparently is outside their operating capabilities. So they all signed on to the dangerous lie.
What Really Happened
The real narrative based on actual facts would have acknowledged that it was the West, not Russia, that instigated the Ukraine crisis by engineering the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych and the imposition of a new Western-oriented regime hostile to Moscow and Ukraine’s ethnic Russians.
In late 2013, it was the European Union that was pushing an economic association agreement with Ukraine, which included the International Monetary Fund’s demands for imposing harsh austerity on Ukraine’s already suffering population. Political and propaganda support for the E.U. plan was financed, in part, by the U.S. government through such agencies as the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
When Yanukovych recoiled at the IMF’s terms and opted for a more generous $15 billion aid package from Putin, the U.S. government threw its public support behind mass demonstrations aimed at overthrowing Yanukovych and replacing him with a new regime that would sign the E.U. agreement and accept the IMF’s demands.
As the crisis deepened in early 2014, Putin was focused on the Sochi Winter Olympics, particularly the threat of terrorist attacks on the games. No evidence has been presented that Putin was secretly trying to foment the Ukraine crisis. Indeed, all the evidence is that Putin was trying to protect the status quo, support the elected president and avert a worse crisis.
It would be insane to suggest that Putin somehow orchestrated the E.U.’s destabilizing attempt to pull Ukraine into the association agreement, that he then stage-managed the anti-Yanukovych violence of the Maidan protests, that he collaborated with neo-Nazi and other ultra-nationalist militias to kill Ukrainian police and chase Yanukovych from Kiev, and that he then arranged for Yanukovych to be replaced by a wildly anti-Russian regime – all while pretending to do the opposite of all these things.
In the real world, the narrative was quite different: Moscow supported Yanukovych’s efforts to reach a political compromise, including a European-brokered agreement for early elections and reduced presidential powers. Yet, despite those concessions, neo-Nazi militias surged to the front of the U.S.-backed protests on Feb. 22, 2014, forcing Yanukovych and many of his officials to run for their lives. The U.S. State Department quickly recognized the coup regime as “legitimate” as did other NATO allies.
On a personal note, I am sometimes criticized by conspiracy theorists for not accepting their fact-free claims about nefarious schemes supposedly dreamed up by U.S. officials, but frankly as baseless as some of those wacky stories can be, they sound sensible when compared with the West’s loony conspiracy theory about Putin choreographing the Ukraine coup.
Yet, that baseless conspiracy theory roped in supposedly serious thinkers, such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who conjured up the notion that Putin stirred up this trouble so he could pull off a land grab and/or distract Russians from their economic problems.
“Delusions of easy winnings still happen,” Krugman wrote in a 2014 column. “It’s only a guess, but it seems likely that Vladimir Putin thought that he could overthrow Ukraine’s government, or at least seize a large chunk of its territory, on the cheap, a bit of deniable aid to the rebels, and it would fall into his lap. …
“Recently Justin Fox of the Harvard Business Review suggested that the roots of the Ukraine crisis may lie in the faltering performance of the Russian economy. As he noted, Mr. Putin’s hold on power partly reflects a long run of rapid economic growth. But Russian growth has been sputtering, and you could argue that the Putin regime needed a distraction.”
Midwifing This Thing
Or, rather than “a guess,” Krugman could have looked at the actual facts, such as the work of neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland conspiring to organize a coup that would put her hand-picked Ukrainians in charge of Russia’s neighbor. Several weeks before the putsch, Nuland was caught plotting the “regime change” in an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.
Regarding who should replace Yanukovych, Nuland’s choice was Arseniy “Yats is the guy” Yatsenyuk. The phone call went on to muse about how they could “glue this thing” and “midwife this thing.” After the coup was glued or midwifed on Feb. 22, 2014, Yatsenyuk emerged as the new prime minister and then shepherded through the IMF austerity plan.
Since the coup regime in Kiev also took provocative steps against the ethnic Russians, such as the parliament voting to ban Russian as an official language and allowing neo-Nazi extremists to slaughter anti-coup protesters, ethnic Russian resistance arose in the east and south. That shouldn’t have been much of a surprise since eastern Ukraine had been Yanukovych’s political base and stood to lose the most from Ukraine’s economic orientation toward Europe and reduced economic ties to Russia.
Yet, instead of recognizing the understandable concerns of the eastern Ukrainians, the Western media portrayed the ethnic Russians as simply Putin’s pawns with no minds of their own. The U.S.-backed regime in Kiev launched what was called an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against them, spearheaded by the neo-Nazi militias.
In Crimea – another area heavily populated with ethnic Russians and with a long history of association with Russia – voters opted by 96 percent in a referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a process supported by Russian troops stationed in Crimea under a prior agreement with Ukraine’s government.
There was no Russian “invasion,” as The New York Times and other mainstream U.S. news outlets claimed. The Russian troops were already in Crimea assigned to Russia’s historic Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol. Putin agreed to Crimea’s annexation partly out of fear that the naval base would otherwise fall into NATO’s hands and pose a strategic threat to Russia.
But the key point regarding the crazy Western conspiracy theory about Putin provoking the crisis so he could seize territory or distract Russians from economic troubles is that Putin only annexed Crimea because of the ouster of Yanukovych and the installation of a Russia-hating regime in Kiev. If Yanukovych had not been overthrown, there is no reason to think that Putin would have done anything regarding Crimea or Ukraine.
Yet, once the false narrative got rolling, there was no stopping it. The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading Western publications played the same role that they did during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, accepting the U.S. government’s propaganda as fact and marginalizing the few independent journalists who dared go against the grain.
Though Obama, Merkel and other key leaders know how deceptive the Western propaganda has been, they have become captives to their governments’ own lies. For them to deviate substantially from the Official Story would open them to harsh criticism from the powerful neoconservatives and their allied media outlets.
Even a slight contradiction to NATO’s “strategic communications” brought down harsh criticism on German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after he said: “What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering. … Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken.”
So, at the Warsaw conference, the false NATO narrative had to be reaffirmed — and it was. The communiqué declared, “Russia’s aggressive actions, including provocative military activities in the periphery of NATO territory and its demonstrated willingness to attain political goals by the threat and use of force, are a source of regional instability, fundamentally challenge the Alliance, have damaged Euro-Atlantic security, and threaten our long-standing goal of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. …
“Russia’s destabilising actions and policies include: the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise and which we call on Russia to reverse; the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Document, and provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean; its irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace.
“In addition, Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and its use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean have posed further risks and challenges for the security of Allies and others.”
In the up-is-down world that NATO and other Western agencies now inhabit, Russia’s military maneuvers within it own borders in reaction to NATO maneuvers along Russia’s borders are “provocative.” So, too, is Russia’s support for the internationally recognized government of Syria, which is under attack from Islamic terrorists and other armed rebels supported by the West’s Mideast allies, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO member Turkey.
In other words, it is entirely all right for NATO and its members to invade countries at will, including Iraq, Libya and Syria, and subvert others as happened in Ukraine and is still happening in Syria. But it is impermissible for any government outside of NATO to respond or even defend itself. To do so amounts to a provocation against NATO – and such hypocrisy is accepted by the West’s mainstream news media as the way that the world was meant to be.
And those of us who dare point out the lies and double standards must be “Moscow stooges,” just as those of us who dared question the Iraq WMD tales were dismissed as “Saddam apologists” in 2003.
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).