Under the cover of battling “fake news,” the mainstream U.S. news media and officialdom are taking aim at journalistic skepticism when it is directed at the pronouncements of the U.S. government and its allies.
One might have hoped that the alarm about “fake news” would remind major U.S. news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, about the value of journalistic skepticism. However, instead, it seems to have done the opposite.
The idea of questioning the claims by the West’s officialdom now brings calumny down upon the heads of those who dare do it. “Truth” is being redefined as whatever the U.S. government, NATO and other Western interests say is true. Disagreement with the West’s “group thinks,” no matter how fact-based the dissent is, becomes “fake news.”
So, we have the case of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius having a starry-eyed interview with Richard Stengel, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, the principal arm of U.S. government propaganda.
Entitled “The truth is losing,” the column laments that the official narratives as deigned by the State Department and The Washington Post are losing traction with Americans and the world’s public.
Stengel, a former managing editor at Time magazine, seems to take aim at Russia’s RT network’s slogan, “question more,” as some sinister message seeking to inject cynicism toward the West’s official narratives.
“They’re not trying to say that their version of events is the true one. They’re saying: ‘Everybody’s lying! Nobody’s telling you the truth!’,” Stengel said. “They don’t have a candidate, per se. But they want to undermine faith in democracy, faith in the West.”
Typical of these recent mainstream tirades about this vague Russian menace, Ignatius’s column doesn’t provide any specifics regarding how RT and other Russian media outlets are carrying out this assault on the purity of Western information. It’s enough to just toss around pejorative phrases supporting an Orwellian solution, which is to stamp out or marginalize alternative and independent journalism, not just Russian.
Ignatius writes: “Stengel poses an urgent question for journalists, technologists and, more broadly, everyone living in free societies or aspiring to do so. How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?
“Stengel argues that the U.S. government should sometimes protect citizens by exposing ‘weaponized information, false information’ that is polluting the ecosystem. But ultimately, the defense of truth must be independent of a government that many people mistrust. ‘There are inherent dangers in having the government be the verifier of last resort,’ he argues.”
By the way, Stengel is not the fount of truth-telling, as he and Ignatius like to pretend. Early in the Ukraine crisis, Stengel delivered a rant against RT that was full of inaccuracies or what you might call “fake news.”
Yet, what Stengel and various mainstream media outlets appear to be arguing for is the creation of a “Ministry of Truth” managed by mainstream U.S. media outlets and enforced by Google, Facebook and other technology platforms.
In other words, once these supposedly responsible outlets decide what the “truth” is, then questioning that narrative will earn you “virtual” expulsion from the marketplace of ideas, possibly eliminated via algorithms of major search engines or marked with a special app to warn readers not to believe what you say, a sort of yellow Star of David for the Internet age.
And then there’s the possibility of more direct (and old-fashioned) government enforcement by launching FBI investigations into media outlets that won’t toe the official line. (All of these “solutions” have been advocated in recent weeks.)
On the other hand, if you do toe the official line that comes from Stengel’s public diplomacy shop, you stand to get rewarded with government financial support. Stengel disclosed in his interview with Ignatius that his office funds “investigative” journalism projects.
“How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth?” Ignatius asks, adding: “Stengel has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers.”
After reading Ignatius’s column on Wednesday, I submitted a question to the State Department asking for details on this “journalism” and “truth-telling” funding that is coming from the U.S. government’s top propaganda shop, but I have not received an answer.
But we do know that the U.S. government has been investing tens of millions of dollars in various media programs to undergird Washington’s desired narratives.
For instance, in May 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”
USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the 2014 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian and U.S.-backed regime, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” skills that would have been quite helpful to the coup plotters.
USAID, working with currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society, also has funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.
Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what appeared to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.
Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Higgins is now associated with the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank which is partially funded by the U.S. State Department.
Beyond funding from the State Department and USAID, tens of millions of dollars more are flowing through the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was started in 1983 under the guiding hand of CIA Director William Casey.
NED became a slush fund to help finance what became known, inside the Reagan administration, as “perception management,” the art of controlling the perceptions of domestic and foreign populations.
The Emergence of StratCom
Last year, as the New Cold War heated up, NATO created the Strategic Communications Command in Latvia to further wage information warfare against Russia and individuals who were contesting the West’s narratives.
As veteran war correspondent Don North reported in 2015 regarding this new StratCom, “the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’
“This attitude has led to treating psy-ops — manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions — as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.”
Now, the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress are moving to up the ante, passing new legislation to escalate “information warfare.”
On Wednesday, U.S. congressional negotiators approved $160 million to combat what they deem foreign propaganda and the alleged Russian campaign to spread “fake news.” The measure is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and gives the State Department the power to identify “propaganda” and counter it.
This bipartisan stampede into an Orwellian future for the American people and the world’s population follows a shoddily sourced Washington Post article that relied on a new anonymous group that identified some 200 Internet sites, including some of the most prominent American independent sources of news, as part of a Russian propaganda network.
Typical of this new McCarthyism, the report lacked evidence that any such network actually exists but instead targeted cases where American journalists expressed skepticism about claims from Western officialdom.
Consortiumnews.com was included on the list apparently because we have critically analyzed some of the claims and allegations regarding the crises in Syria and Ukraine, rather than simply accept the dominant Western “group thinks.”
Also on the “black list” were such quality journalism sites as Counterpunch, Truth-out, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and ZeroHedge along with many political sites ranging across the ideological spectrum.
The Fake-News Express
Normally such an unfounded conspiracy theory would be ignored, but – because The Washington Post treated the incredible allegations as credible – the smear has taken on a life of its own, reprised by cable networks and republished by major newspapers.
But the unpleasant truth is that the mainstream U.S. news media is now engaged in its own fake-news campaign about “fake news.” It’s publishing bogus claims invented by a disreputable and secretive outfit that just recently popped up on the Internet. If that isn’t “fake news,” I don’t know what is.
Yet, despite the Post’s clear violations of normal journalistic practices, surely, no one there will pay a price, anymore than there was accountability for the Post reporting as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003. Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor most responsible for that catastrophic “group think,” is still in the same job today.
Two nights ago, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews featured the spurious Washington Post article in a segment that – like similar rehashes –didn’t bother to get responses from the journalists being slandered.
I found that ironic since Matthews repeatedly scolds journalists for their failure to look skeptically at U.S. government claims about Iraq possessing WMD as justification for the disastrous Iraq War. However, now Matthews joins in smearing journalists who have applied skepticism to U.S. and Western propaganda claims about Syria and/or Ukraine.
While the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament begin to take action to shut down or isolate dissident sources of information – all in the name of “democracy” – a potentially greater danger is that mainstream U.S. news outlets are already teaming up with technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to impose their own determinations about “truth” on the Internet.
Or, as Ignatius puts it in his column reflecting Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Stengel’s thinking, “The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms.
“‘They see this information war as an existential threat,’ says Stengel. … The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” [presumably a reference to algorithms] can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a ‘global ombudsman for information.’”
Ministry of Truth
An organization of some 30 mainstream media companies already exists, including not only The Washington Post and The New York Times but also the Atlantic Council-connected Bellingcat, as the emerging arbiters – or ombudsmen – for truth, something Orwell described less flatteringly as a “Ministry of Truth.”
The New York Times has even editorialized in support of Internet censorship, using the hysteria over “fake news” to justify the marginalization or disappearance of dissident news sites.
It now appears that this 1984-ish “MiniTrue” will especially target journalistic skepticism when applied to U.S. government and mainstream media “group thinks.”
Yet, in my four decades-plus in professional journalism, I always understood that skepticism was a universal journalistic principle, one that should be applied in all cases, whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House or whether some foreign leader is popular or demonized.
As we have seen in recent years, failure to ask tough questions and to challenge dubious claims from government officials and mainstream media outlets can get lots of people killed, both U.S. soldiers and citizens of countries invaded or destabilized by outsiders.
To show skepticism is not the threat to democracy that Undersecretary Stengel and columnist Ignatius appear to think it is.
Whether you like or dislike RT’s broadcasts – or more likely have never seen one – a journalist really can’t question its slogan: “question more.” Questioning is the essence of journalism and, for that matter, democracy.
[In protest of the Post’s smearing of independent journalists, RootsAction has undertaken a petition drive, which can be found here.]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
Your crime, as it were, need not be substantiated with evidence; the mere fact you publicly revealed your anti-Establishment thought convicted you.
One of the most remarkable ironies of The Washington Post’s recent evidence-free fabrication of purported “Russian propaganda” websites (including this site) is how closely it mimics the worst excesses of the USSR’s Stalinist era.
One episode is especially relevant to the totalitarian tactics of The Washington Post’s evidence-free accusation. Solzhenitsyn tells the story of one poor fellow who made the mistake of recounting a dream he’d had the previous night to his co-workers.
In his dream, Stalin had come to some harm. In Solzhenitsyn’s account, the fellow was remorseful about the dream.
Alas, mere remorse couldn’t possibly save him. He was promptly arrested for “anti-Soviet thoughts” and given a tenner in the Gulag–a tenner being a ten-year sentence in a Siberian labor camp.
The Washington Post’s accusation is based on a “behavioral analysis”–in other words, publicly sharing “anti-Soviet thoughts”–in our era, the equivalent is sharing anti-Establishment thoughts.
Your crime, as it were, need not be substantiated with evidence; the mere fact you publicly revealed your anti-Establishment thought convicted you.
This is the Corporate Media’s Gulag of the Mind. We’ll tell you what’s “true” and what is correct to think and believe. Any deviation from the party line is a threat and must be discredited, marginalized or suppressed.
Where is the Post’s hard evidence of Russian ties or Russian influence? There isn’t any–but like Stalin’s henchmen, the Post has no need for evidence: merely going public with an anti-Establishment thought “proves” one’s guilt in the kangaroo court of America’s corporate media (a.k.a. mainstream media or MSM).
While The Washington Post is owned by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the vast majority of what we read, watch and hear is controlled by a handful of corporations loaded with cash and connections to the ruling elite.
This concentration of media control creates the illusion of choice— the same elite-propaganda spin is everywhere you look; our “choice” of “approved” (i.e. corporate) media is roughly the same as that offered the Soviet citizenry in the old USSR.
This is why the billionaire/corporate media is so desperate to discredit the non-corporate media: if an alternative to the corporate media’s elite-propaganda catches on, the corporate media will lose its audience, its advert revenues and a substantial measure of its influence.
The cornered elite-propaganda beast is lashing out, undermining its waning credibility with every attack on an independent free press. As I noted in a recent conversation with Max Keiser, democracy requires the citizenry to sort out who benefits from whatever narrative is being pushed.
That’s what terrifies the elite-propaganda mainstream media: the status quo narrative they’ve spewed for years doesn’t benefit the bottom 95% — rather, it actively impoverishes and disempowers the bottom 95%–and the citizenry is slowly awakening to this reality.
So for goodness sakes, if you have an anti-elitist dream, keep it to yourself or you’ll end up on the ruling elite’s “enemies list.”
The final irony in all this: the real enemy of democracy and freedom of the press is The Washington Post and the rest of the billionaire/corporate media. The only way to escape the Corporate Media’s Gulag of the Mind is to stop watching their TV channels, turn off their radio stations and stop reading their print/digital propaganda–except of course if you have a taste for dark humor.
Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print). For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.
America’s once venerable Washington Post has launched a Thanksgiving attack on the Russian media. Sadly for our friends on the Potomac, it turned out to be a bit of a turkey.
This month, the mainstream media’s primary narrative has shifted toward ‘fake news’ and its role in the US election. We’ve seen internet giants like Facebook pressured to get their act together on the issue and a series of investigations into the creators of misleading content.
Predictably, the “blame Russia for everything” constituency of the establishment press has tried to connect Moscow to this development.
Take the folks at the Washington Post, for instance, who have published a sensationalist and scaremongering piece about fake news stories that itself turned out to be, well, full of fakes. To be blunt, the Washington Post has lied about RT and presented zero proof to support its allegations. What’s more, it never even asked for a comment!
This means that its strangely crafted attempt to defend journalistic principles has effectively disobeyed the two most important rules of the business: namely “always double-check your sources” and “make sure to ask the subject of your story for a comment.”
To start, WashPo references “researchers” to claim that some of the fake news and conspiracy theories plaguing the media coverage of the US election “originated with RT.” Mind you, not a single example is provided to support this lunacy – no link, no tweet, no article title.
Then the reporter, one Craig Timberg, quotes Michael McFaul – one of the ‘talking heads’ du jour for criticism of Russia – as saying RT expressed overt support for Donald Trump during the US election – which is pure fiction, apparent to anyone remotely familiar with RT’s actual programming. As regular readers know, RT has published many articles which indicated that Moscow had no clear preference in the contest, covered Trump scandals, and interviewed guests from all over the American political spectrum – Republican and Democrat, Libertarian and Green. We’ve invited Hillary Clinton too, and the invite still stands.
McFaul then concludes his contribution with the statement that RT used “the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate (Trump)” on its social media services. Like with the “origin story,” this claim is presented not as subjective opinion, but as unquestionable fact. In reality, this is another complete lie, one that WashPo would have had no trouble fact-checking with a simple search. Alas.
Thus, the Washington Post has hinged a piece about fake news on falsehoods. The irony is astounding.
Absence of proof
Timberg’s entire supposition is built around a collection of “suspicious episode” yarns, not facts or evidence. His argument revolves around tenuous social media interaction and unsubstantiated third-party claims. Outlets as diverse as AntiWar, Counterpunch, Sputnik, Drudge Report, Off Guardian and Unz Review are attacked alongside RT, not to mention internationally popular entities including WikiLeaks, Zerohedge and Truthout. Basically, anybody critical of US foreign policy is accused of “echoing Russia.”
Also telling is the two external “research” sources the article relies on: PropOrNot and FPRI. “PropOrNot” is described as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” In reality, this group’s modus operandi is to smear any news source outside of the mainstream as “reliably echo(ing) Russian propaganda.” Meanwhile, Foreign Policy Research Institute is a US think-tank with a very clear agenda of “advanc[ing] U.S. national interests,” funded by massive corporations, such as Boeing, who profit from east-west tension through increased military spending and still mired in the Cold War-era worldview.
With every day and every new wave of hysterical publications, it becomes difficult to deny that the real point of the current media campaign is to brand everything that runs counter to the establishment narrative as “fake news” and “Russian propaganda.” Perhaps in the hope that once criticism and adversarial journalism is removed, the general public will no longer lash out at the tight little club that has ruled the roost for so long.
Daily mean temperature and climate north of the 80th northern parallel, as a function of the day of year.
There has been much excitement about much of the Arctic being warmer than usual at the moment.
The Washington Post describes it as “insane”. (The 36 degrees is Fahrenheit, by the way).
Chris Mooney is well known for biased and misleading reporting where climate change is concerned, but it is always sad to see otherwise respectable meteorologists such as Jason Samenow, one of the Capital Weather Gang, roped in as well, something that has become more frequent in recent years.
The simple reality, as Samenow should know, is that such departures above “normal” are not unusual during the colder months in the Arctic.
DMI have records back to 1954 for Arctic temperatures, and a quick trawl uncovers several similar instances, for instance 1972, 1974 and 1976:
The only difference was that these occurrences took place in January/February, rather than November. We should bear in mind that the 1970s were a time of expanding Arctic ice.
The Washington Post article actually explains what has been going on:
The Arctic is super-hot, even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia…..
It’s about 20C [36 degrees Fahrenheit] warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia,” Jennifer Francis, an Arctic specialist at Rutgers University, said by email Wednesday.
“The Arctic warmth is the result of a combination of record-low sea-ice extent for this time of year, probably very thin ice, and plenty of warm/moist air from lower latitudes being driven northward by a very wavy jet stream.”
The key is the comment about warm/moist air. Because of latent heat, when that moist air turns back to water, heat is given off, thus warming the atmosphere disproportionately.
Jennifer Francis has long claimed that the “wavy jetstream” is caused by melting Arctic ice. Yet HH Lamb found the same phenomenon in the 1960s and 70s, and believed it was caused by a colder Arctic!
Indeed, if we check out the GISS global temperature maps for the three years I have highlighted above, 1972, 1974 and 1976, we find very similar weather patterns, with very cold polar air displaced over Siberia and North America, along with warm air invading the Arctic.
The truth is that there is nothing unusual or unprecedented going on here. It is simply weather.
Or is it just that liberal Jews hate Trump?
One of the more curious bits of invective hurled at presidential candidate Donald Trump was the claim that he is an anti-Semite. The allegation is particularly odd as Trump worked comfortably for decades in the heavily Jewish New York real estate world, his daughter Ivanka, whom he is very close to, has converted to Judaism and is married to a Jew who was prominent in Donald’s campaign while Trump’s grandson from that marriage is being raised as Jewish. Trump was Grand Marshall of New York City’s 2004 Salute to Israel Parade and has contributed to predominantly Jewish charities.
On November 2nd, a position paper was released that had been prepared by the candidate’s supporters Jason Dov Greenblatt and David Friedman of the Trump campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee which detailed its Middle Eastern policy. It hails the “unbreakable bond” between the U.S. and Israel while calling Israel a Jewish state and a “staunch ally.” It promises to increase financial and political support for Israel, blames the Palestinians for failure to have peace, commits to cut off funding to UN organizations that criticize Israel, rejects any suggestion that Israel is an occupying power, and pledges major diplomatic and legislative efforts to stop the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement by whatever means necessary. It commits to having the Justice Department investigate on-campus attempts to “intimidate students who support Israel.” It concludes by rejecting a Palestinian state “where terrorism is financially incentivized” and supports Israel’s continued maintenance of “defensible borders” through its settlements. It calls for implementing “tough, new sanctions” against Iran and promises to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making the United States the only country in the world to do so.
Indeed, if one judges philo-Semitism by the relationship to Israel Trump fares well on all fronts, his campaign having also been perceived very positively in that country. One of the first calls from a foreign head of state that Trump took upon winning the election was from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will likely be the very first head of state to visit with Trump.
Admittedly the state of Israel is not exactly identical to Judaism or to what might drive pro- or anti-Jewish sentiment, but it would be difficult to imagine a more pro-Israel with the intention of being pro-Jewish document than the Trump campaign policy paper. Nevertheless, the attacks regarding anti-Semitism in the Trump campaign continued. The claims are usually generic and circumstantial, often evidence free. They tend not to be ad hominem directed at Trump himself because it is impossible to actually cite any instances where the candidate himself made unambiguously anti-Semitic statements or supported causes hostile to Jews.
One recent piece by Dana Milbank, a cookie cutter Washington Post columnist who has been blasting Trump for over a year is characteristic. Milbank, an Ivy league twit who is himself Jewish and liberal to a fault, claimed on November 7th that “Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody.” He claimed that Trump has been “playing footsie with American neo-Nazis for months” and based his broader allegation on Trump’s going after banks and the “global power structure” that Hillary Clinton embodied, which Milbank believes is codeword for citing an International Jewish Conspiracy. What set him off in particular was a Trump ad that appeared on November 4th depicting “those who control the levers of power” and who “represent global interests.” The three individuals appearing on the ad were Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve; George Soros, the international financier; and Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs. All three are Jewish.
Milbank may or may not believe that banks and financial services are fair game when it comes to discussing America’s economic malaise, but he clearly thinks that it is not desirable to do so if it involves his tribe. Trump’s ad in no way mentions Jews or Judaism. It does identify individuals who are key players in the global economy, which would appear to be the point. And one might well observe that discussing banks and bank(st)ers will inevitably lead to people with Jewish names as American Jews are way over represented in the profession.
Janet Yellen is the third Jew in a row to be chairman of the Federal Reserve and her deputy Stanley Fischer is a Rhodesian born Israeli who was formerly head of the Bank of Israel. Soros is a Hungarian born billionaire investor who has supported what some regard as subversive progressive causes for three decades, making him an obvious target of Trump, while Blankfein and the notorious Goldman Sachs needs no further elaboration. One suspects that for Milbank it might be possible to talk critically about some banks, but not if the banking practices under scrutiny are connected with Jews, particularly if such commentary might be construed as suggestive of the political access and control that money buys.
A couple of weeks before Milbank’s venting of his spleen, one Yochi Dreazen made his case against Trump in an article entitled “It’s time to acknowledge reality: Donald Trump talks like an anti-Semite.” He does so largely by citing other people and entities that he links to Trump, including David Duke, The Daily Stormer website and Pepe the Frog. He accuses Trump of using “language and imagery that carry anti-Semitic undertones” and even attacks Trump’s telling the Republican Jewish Coalition that he didn’t need their money and wouldn’t be bought. He also digs up the controversy, as does Milbank, about a mysterious six pointed star appearing on a campaign ad featuring Hillary Clinton and stacks of money. It might be doubted that the creators of ads during a heated political campaign would be inclined to insert secret symbols to inflame their most extreme supporters but even if that is true it is quite a stretch to suggest that Donald Trump either had a hand in it or approved of it.
Dreazen’s wrath is most focused on a speech Trump made in Florida in mid-October, which is reproduced in “key phrases” in his article. Here is what Trump allegedly said:
It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities…
We’ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors…
This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. Believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it on November 8. Remember that.
This election will determine whether we’re a free nation, or whether we have only an illusion democracy but in are in fact controlled by a small handful of special global interests rigging the system, and our system is rigged.
Dreazen regards all of the above as a “paranoid and hate filled rant” as well as “a hoary anti-Semitic canard” but I don’t quite get it. I would agree with most of what Trump said and would observe that he is not unique in thinking that way either as most of what he said has long been common currency among both liberal and conservative critics of the status quo in the U.S. I think that very few Americans who might agree with the sentiments expressed would under any circumstances think that it refers to Jews. Rather, some thoughtful observers who have actually thought about the issues at stake might well believe that Trump is talking about the American Deep State, which, as far as I know, has never been described as some kind of Jewish conspiracy. Trump does not mention Jews at all and the only proper name that he cites in his speech was Hillary Clinton, whom he was running against, and she claims to be a Methodist.
Let’s face it, Milbank and Dreazen are pro-Establishment guys who have hated Trump from the beginning because he does not fit into their progressive world view and who delight in being able to make the kind of twisted arguments that enable them to label him an anti-Semite as well as a misogynist, racist, bigot and homophobe. Have I left anything out? They are attacking him not for what he has actually clearly stated or done but over what he might be thinking. For them it is always convenient to be able to recall Munich in 1938 or to conjure up Cossacks at the front door to win an argument, but someone should tell them that calling someone an anti-Semite is fortunately a slur that is losing its effectiveness through overuse and lack of credibility. Joe Sobran put it very well when he observed that anti-Semite used to be an expression applied to people who hate Jews but now it is more often used to describe people that Jews hate.
Political pundits in the US, who saw their election predictions turned on their heads, are now scrambling for an insightful explanation of how Hillary Clinton could have failed to win. Well, there’s one big reason. The anti-establishment protests that marked the whole trajectory of the US election came to a head on Nov. 8. The American people had not only lost their faith in the powers-that-be – which try to equate their own needs with the interests of the broader nation – but they had also stopped trusting the dominant media outlets that are so intertwined with that system. Trump was not only battling his political opponents, he was also opposed by many from his own party who defected to Clinton’s side. He faced resistance from the mainstream media, including an estimated 50 of the leading American newspapers and magazines, as well as virtually all of the major television channels. It is difficult to imagine how Trump managed to break through the «consensus» that was aimed against him. It appears that some instinctive, universal sympathy was roused toward someone who, like the Paul Bunyan of American folk tales, was willing to single-handedly take on the world. The fact that the traditional media was able to exert so little influence is evidence that they are losing ground to the Internet and other more cutting-edge ways of communicating. It seems that Trump was also better able than others to harness this technological revolution.
It is possible that one of the new president’s first steps in his revolution will be to begin a housecleaning of the American media landscape. In his «100 Day Action Plan» for his new administration, Trump has already announced that he will do battle with anyone who is «trying to stifle the voice of the American people». He has singled out AT&T’s desire to purchase Time Warner, which owns CNN and many other media assets, as an example of how big capital is taking over the channels that influence public opinion. Trump stated that as president he would not approve this deal, «because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few». Amazon, which owns the Washington Post and thus avoids a high tax bill, is a similar case in point. Yet another example – the television channel NBC, in which Comcast has acquired a majority stake, also «concentrates too much power in its hands». The list goes on. Trump feels that we now have one superstructure that manipulates the thoughts and behaviors of voters, thereby contaminating their minds. Deals like these «destroy democracy» and the Trump administration has vowed to try to break them up.
The publications that could be affected by these reorganizations are close to panicking. Their prestige is declining, as are their stock prices. The Washington Post, for example, is behaving very oddly right now. It published an article claiming that the blame for all the filth and professional sleaziness that has filled the pages of American newspapers, including its own, can be placed on… Russia.
The New York Times has not yet reached this conclusion and remains absolutely dumbfounded, claiming that what was once an «implausible fantasy» is now a fait accompli that has «placed the United States on a precipice». You can, however, agree with that publication’s conclusion that during the election Trump used the «judo move of turning the weight of a complacent establishment against it».
Television channels reorganize quickly. They are not yet singing Trump’s praises, but are putting many of their previous assessments on hold. It is easier for them to simply broadcast pictures of events while refraining from comment. Political analysts who don’t have the backing of powerful organizations and corporations are in a more difficult position – they need to respond instantly. Yesterday they considered Trump anathema, but today the number of his «long-time» supporters is growing rapidly, and one topic predominates among them. If the new president wants his policies to work, he needs to get advice from these «indispensables», otherwise he will fail. There are quite a large number of those who want to lend Trump their own broad shoulders and minds – the very same that have already pushed the US into so many misadventures. To what extent these «eternal gurus» will manage to latch onto Trump – and how much success he will have bringing fresh blood into his administration – will largely depend on whether the newly-elected master of the White House sticks to the script he has promised. The most militant of them – neocons such as William Kristol – are already glancing toward the future vice-president Mike Pence, hoping to make him an agent of their influence over Trump.
Outside the US, the prize for the most ridiculous reaction to Trump’s win should probably be awarded to French President François Hollande. He was completely unprepared for Clinton’s defeat, and what he said was not only incongruous with French gallantry but also common sense. «The American people have just expressed their opinion… They chose Donald Trump to be the president of the United States», Hollande reluctantly admitted, adding with a sigh, «and I therefore congratulate him, as is natural between two democratic heads of state». Meaning that he personally would have never done so on his own. «This election opens up a period of uncertainty», added Hollande, «I must be very clear about that». Although probably after such a «warm greeting» it will be difficult for him to count on having a relationship with Trump. But it’s possible he won’t have much time left for that anyway.
The former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is favored to win the upcoming French presidential elections in April and May 2017, is pretty much already celebrating his own victory and is not concealing his joy at Trump’s election. Sarkozy emphasizes that the outcome of the US election signifies a «rejection of a monolithic mindset» on trade and immigration issues. With leaders like Donald Trump in the US and Vladimir Putin in Russia, France should also have a strong leader at the helm – there is no longer «any place for helplessness and weakness».
In Berlin Angela Merkel is of course too rational to give way to emotions like Hollande’s and merely responded to Trump’s victory in keeping with diplomatic protocol. However, she was clearly feeling some unease about her future political destiny. The changes in Washington could have a negative impact on the prospects for the CDU party that she leads during the Bundestag elections in the fall of 2017. Plus, Merkel has been copying Clinton’s unsuccessful tactical approach. For example, the German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported her sudden announcement that the Germans were «having to deal with Internet attacks by Russian hackers and with news from the Russian media that provide false information». She claims that «this could influence next year’s German elections». It is unlikely that such a plan of attack, which didn’t work out for Clinton, can help Merkel in any way.
It is not unusual to opine that Trump’s victory is being welcomed, first and foremost, by the world’s alt-right. That’s an oversimplification. Although there are many Trump opponents in the US who are unhappy with his conciliatory words about Russia and his preference for non-interference in the affairs of others, it’s more the case that there are some who are known as traditionalists who have specific hopes for him. In some sense the Trump phenomenon is a conservative revolution at the hands of the US and global «mainstream» who are pushing back against the aggressive hold over them by those in the minority. Statistics show that the majority of the US population favor Trump, while only a minority supported Clinton. And democracy is after all a political form of governance in which power belongs to the majority. Soon we shall see how Trump is going to act on this issue.
The recent victory of now President-elect Donald Trump has taken a lot of Americans by surprise. But it would be safe to say that the corporate ruling elites that went all in on Hillary Clinton were literally shocked by her defeat. Without her at the head of the state they fear they may not be able to carry on spreading the corruption, which is believed to be at the foundation of the Clinton clan, or carry on waging wars upon other states which includes arming terrorists responsible for killing thousands of civilians around the world.
And even though the corporate elites have formally acknowledged Trump’s victory, they are pressuring the current government to fight the next US President tooth and nail, until all resources are exhausted.
Over the last eight years, the Obama administration has acquired a long list of tricks that were used against undesired governments in various parts of the world, while the most effective among them is the so-called “color revolutions,” where essentially a coup d’etat is achieved by media manipulation and large mobs. US intelligence services are now prepared to unleash such a revolution on the home front, since they are fairly concerned about their future under Trump, as the Washington Post would report.
The fact that Obama still believes in Trump’s inability to replace him in the White House has already been announced by the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. At the same time, he would point out, while commenting on the anti-Trump protests in the US, that the right for freedom of expression must be exercised without violence, clearly alluding to the current administration’s arsenal of “peaceful” tools that would allow it to get rid of Trump.
That is why we already are witnessing a wave of “protests” being unleashed under the control of the Obama administration. The corporate media and social networks are openly arrayed against the incoming 45th US President. These very tactics have been used by US intelligence agencies in Brazil, Nicaragua, Hong Kong, Thailand, as well as across the Middle East and Eastern Europe to unleash a “color revolution”. In some countries, such actions have brought foreign government under the direct control of the White House, as we can see it in Ukraine, Brazil and several other countries.
As a result, we are now being told about thousands of protesters in US cities rallying against the Trump election victory. These claims were followed by a petition published on Change.org that demands the US authorities change the results of the recent election, demanding the electoral college be revised, and that the election results be overturned on December 19. It is being reported that this petition has already been signed by a total of two million people.
It goes without saying that an attempt to launch a “color revolution” in the United States is being supported by a number of Europe states in addition to the US, including France and Germany, since the political order there is concerned about the impunity they’ve been enjoying coming to an end, with Trump failing to openly signal continued open US support for them. The British Independent wants Trump to be impeached, citing law professor Christopher Peterson, who would claim that there is a strong case for the beginning of legal proceedings that would stop Donald Trump from being president. The impeachment process is usually initiated when a president of a state has committed some sort of a serious offense, but Trump hasn’t been able to do anything yet, since he hasn’t been inaugurated. Still the Independent believes there must be some legal ground for his impeachment.
It’s clear the train of “color revolution” is under full steam in the US today. What will come up from this attempt to ignore the US Constitution, remains to be seen.
One trick of the original McCarthyism from the Old Cold War was to take some innocuous or accurate comment from a leader in Moscow — saying something like “poverty is a cruel side of capitalism” or “racism persists in the U.S.” — and to claim that some American reformer who says much the same thing must be a Kremlin tool.
Now, in the New Cold War, we are seeing a similar trend in the way some Democrats and the mainstream U.S. media are citing accurate assessments from Russian President Vladimir Putin and claiming that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is somehow in league with Putin for observing the same realities.
A case in point is Tuesday’s editorial in The Washington Post, entitled “The Putin-Trump worldview” (in print) and “Trump and Putin share a frightening worldview” (online). The editorial quotes Putin as “observing that Mr. Trump ‘represents the interests of the sizable part of American society that is tired of the elites that have been in power for decades now … and does not like to see power handed down by inheritance.’”
The Post’s editorial writers then snidely note that “Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump have an uncanny way of echoing each other’s words.”
But that is a classic example of McCarthyistic sophistry. Just because some demonized figure like Putin says something that is undeniably true and an American sees the same facts doesn’t make that American a “Putin puppet” or a “Moscow stooge” or any of the other ugly names now being hurled at people who won’t join in today’s trendy Russia bashing and guilt by association.
Putin is not wrong that many of Trump’s supporters – along with many Americans who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders – are “tired of the elites” that have behaved arrogantly and stupidly for decades. Many Americans also don’t believe that a family’s name should decide who becomes the leader of the United States, whether that be the Bushes or the Clintons.
Indeed, what Putin is saying amounts to almost a truism, yet here is The Washington Post not only suggesting that because Putin is saying something that it must be false but then smearing Trump (or anyone else) who detects the same reality.
The same Post editorial also goes to great lengths to reject any comparisons between the Russian and Syrian government airstrikes on the Syrian neighborhoods of east Aleppo — to root out Al Qaeda-connected jihadists and their supposedly “moderate” rebel allies — and U.S. and Iraqi government airstrikes on the Iraqi city of Mosul under the control of Al Qaeda’s spinoff group, the Islamic State.
Insisting that the two similar operations are nothing alike, the Post’s editors white-out the central role of Al Qaeda in commanding the rebel forces in east Aleppo. While ignoring Al Qaeda’s dominance of those neighborhoods and its terror rocket attacks on civilian areas of west Aleppo, the Post only says, “the rebel forces in Aleppo include Western-backed secular groups who seek only to overturn the blood-drenched Assad regime.”
Note the Post’s characterization that rebel forces “include Western-backed secular groups” rather than an honest admission that those supposedly “secular groups” have served mostly as cut-outs in diverting sophisticated U.S. military weapons, such as TOW missiles, to the jihadist cause, a reality recognized by U.S. military advisers on the ground. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How the US Armed-up Syrian Jihadists.“]
Many of these supposedly “secular groups” have openly allied themselves with Al Qaeda’s recently rebranded Nusra Front (now called the Syria Conquest Front). This so-called “marbling” of the “moderates” in with the jihadists was one of the sticking points in the failed limited cease-fire in which the Post’s beloved “secular groups” rebuffed Secretary of State John Kerry’s plea that they separate themselves from Al Qaeda.
An intellectually honest newspaper would have at least admitted some of these inconvenient truths, but that is not the modern-day Washington Post with its own “blood-drenched” editors who played a crucial role in rallying support behind President George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq under false pretenses.
The Post and its editors have on their hands the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died as a result of that illegal aggressive war, but those editors have not suffered a whit for their participation in war crimes. Instead, exactly the same senior editorial-page editors – Fred Hiatt and Jackson Diehl – are still there, touted on the newspaper’s masthead, still misleading the Post’s readers.
By contrast, The Wall Street Journal (of all places) did some serious reporting on the key question of “moderate” rebels allied with Al Qaeda. The Journal reported on Sept. 29: “Some of Syria’s largest rebel factions are doubling down on their alliance with an al Qaeda-linked group, despite a U.S. warning to split from the extremists or risk being targeted in airstrikes. The rebel gambit is complicating American counterterrorism efforts in the country at a time the U.S. is contemplating cooperation with Russia to fight extremist groups.”
If even Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal can acknowledge this important context, why can’t The Washington Post ?
But the whipping up of a New Cold War with Russia and the demonizing of Vladimir Putin extend beyond The Washington Post to virtually the entire U.S. political/media establishment which has plunged into this dangerous terrain without any more serious thought and analysis than preceded the Iraq invasion, except now the target for “regime change” is nuclear-armed Russia and this adventurism risks the extermination of life on the planet.
Despite these grave dangers, the Democrats and the Clinton campaign have settled on a strategy of exploiting the New McCarthyism of the New Cold War to discredit Trump through “guilt by association” to Putin even though the two men have apparently never met.
Mostly this New McCarthyism has been used to divert attention from developments threatening to Hillary Clinton’s electoral chances, such as the release of embarrassing emails among Democratic insiders hacked from the personal account of Clinton adviser John Podesta and, since last Friday, the statement by FBI Director James Comey that he has reopened the investigation into Clinton’s use of an unsecured email server because of emails found on a computer in the home of Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner.
In the first instance, the Clinton campaign sought to redirect attention from the content of the emails, including the text of speeches that Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs and other financial interests, to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was probably behind the hack.
‘A Witch Hunt’
In the Comey situation, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has sought to counter Comey’s stunning announcement last Friday by calling on the FBI director to also disclose whatever the FBI may have discovered about links between Trump’s aides and the Kremlin.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Democrats have raised suspicions about Carter Page, an early-on Trump adviser and former Merrill Lynch banker who gave a speech last summer criticizing the United States and other Western nations for a “hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” in Russia and other parts of the old Soviet Union.
Page termed Reid’s efforts to transform a political disagreement into a criminal case “a witch hunt,” a phrase familiar from Sen. Joe McCarthy’s Red-scare investigations of the late 1940s and early 1950s into the loyalty of Americans.
Another Trump adviser caught up in the Democrats’ attempts to smear the Trump campaign over alleged ties to Moscow is Roger Stone. The Times reported that Democrats have accused Stone “of being a conduit between the Russian hackers and WikiLeaks,” which published Podesta’s hacked emails, because Stone has said he had contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and seemed to anticipate the damaging disclosures, though Stone has denied any prior knowledge.
An irony from this case of “trading places” – with the Democrats now darkly suggesting Republican ties to Moscow rather than the opposite during the McCarthy era – is that Roger Stone was a longtime associate of the late Roy Cohn, who was the controversial counsel on Sen. McCarthy’s Red-hunting investigations.
Stone derided the Democratic attempts to discredit Trump and himself with claims of ties to Moscow as “the new McCarthyism.”
Despite the irony, Stone is not wrong in his assessment. Rarely in American politics since the dark days of Joe McCarthy have so many unsubstantiated accusations of disloyalty been directed at any major political figure as the Democrats have done to Donald Trump.
In the third debate, Clinton even accused Trump of being a Putin “puppet.” If such a remark were made by Joe McCarthy or his Red-baiting ally Richard Nixon, there would have been understandable outrage. But Clinton’s ugly charge passed without controversy.
Though there are plenty of legitimate reasons to oppose the eminently unqualified Donald Trump for President, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats risk setting in motion dangerous international forces with their promiscuous Russia-bashing. Recognizing the terrifying potential of nuclear war, a more responsible course would be to tone down the rhetoric and address the legitimate questions raised by the email issues.
If Hillary Clinton hangs on to win the presidency, liberal Democrats have vowed to block her appointment of Wall Street-friendly officials to key Cabinet and sub-Cabinet jobs. But there has been little organized resistance to her choosing hawkish foreign policy advisers.
Indeed, Washington’s foreign policy establishment has purged almost anyone who isn’t part of the neoconservative/liberal-interventionist “group think.” That’s why pretty much everyone who “matters” agrees about the need to push around Russia, China, Syria, Iran, etc.
Reflecting that attitude, Sunday’s lead editorial in the neocon Washington Post hailed the broad consensus within the Establishment for more warlike actions once President Obama is gone, taking with him what the Post calls Obama’s “self-defeating passivity.”
The Post praised a new report from the liberal Center for American Progress which calls for bombing the Syrian military and getting tough to “counter Iran’s negative influence” in line with what all the neocons — as well as Israel and Saudi Arabia — want the next President to do.
The absence of any significant counter to this neocon/liberal-hawk “group think” represents one of the greatest dangers to the future of the human species, since this new hubris comes with a cavalier assumption that nuclear-armed Russia and China will simply accept humiliation dished out by the “indispensable nation.”
If they don’t, we can expect Official Washington to ratchet up tensions in a game of nuclear chicken with the expectation that the leaders in Moscow and Beijing will bow down to U.S. “exceptionalism’ and slink away with their tails between their legs.
Surely, that is what the armchair warriors at The Washington Post will demand and they have, of course, a spotless record of infallibility, such as their certainty that Iraq was hiding stockpiles of WMD in 2003. Editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt was so sure of that he wrote it as flat fact.
Given the Iraq War catastrophe and the failure to find the WMD, you might have assumed that Hiatt was summarily fired and has never worked in journalism again. But, of course, you’d be wrong. He is still the editorial-page editor of The Washington Post continuing to ladle out his extraordinary wisdom and brilliant insights.
The New McCarthyism
And, if you dare question those new certainties or note the risks of stumbling into a nuclear conflagration, the Post’s editorial pages label you a Moscow stooge repeating Russian propaganda.
That is what Post columnist Anne Applebaum wrote about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump when he warned about the risks of World War III if a President Hillary Clinton starts shooting down Russian planes over Syria.
Rather than acknowledge the genuine risk of getting into a shooting war with Russia, neocon Applebaum declares such concerns unacceptable and offers a whiff of McCarthyism toward anyone who thinks such a thing.
“Why is Russian state media using such extreme language?” she asks darkly. “And why is Trump repeating it?”
Then, with the typical perceptiveness of a neocon ideologue, Applebaum determines that the Kremlin is warning its citizens about the growing risks of nuclear war to scare them into line amid a recession that the U.S. helped create as part of its “regime change” strategy to destabilize Russia by making its economy scream.
A thoughtful person might stop here and wonder if the use of economic sanctions and other means to destabilize nuclear-armed Russia is such a good idea, but no mainstream person is allowed to raise such questions inside Official Washington. That would just make you a Russian puppet, in Applebaum’s view.
Applebaum then rants on with some wild conspiracy theories about Russian plans to exploit the U.S. presidential transition:
“Whatever the outcome on Nov. 8, political uncertainty will follow: the months of transition, a change of White House staff, perhaps even the violent backlash that Trump may incite. This could be an excellent moment for a major Russian offensive: a land grab in Ukraine, a foray into the Baltic states, a much bigger intervention in the Middle East — anything to ‘test’ the new president.
“If that’s coming, Putin needs to prepare his public to fight much bigger wars and to persuade the rest of the world not to stop him. He needs to get his generals into the right mind-set, and his soldiers ready to go. A little nuclear war rhetoric never fails to focus attention, and I’m sure it has.”
Perhaps the more immediate question here is why a major American newspaper runs such crazy and reckless drivel from one of its regular columnists. But the fact that the Post does so indicates how dangerous the moment is for humanity. For those of us who read the Post regularly, such insane rhetoric barely registers since we see similar nuttiness on a daily basis.
But the “group think” that the Post and other mainstream publications create and then enforce explains why there is such unity among the Establishment as it presses ahead with these dangerous policies in much the same manner that almost the same cast of insiders “group thought” their way into the disastrous Iraq War.
So, the wannabe insiders at the Center for American Progress and the more established pooh-bahs at the Brookings Institution and other preeminent think tanks know they have to promote “regime change” strategies and other forms of warmongering to appease Hiatt and his fellow neocon editorialists and columnists.
In Washington, this “group think” has moved beyond the usual careerist and conformist “conventional wisdom” into something more akin to totalitarianism, at least on foreign policy issues.
That is why it is hard to even come up with a list of sensible people who could survive the onslaught of character assassinations if they were to be proposed as senior advisers to a President Hillary Clinton.
That is also why the attention of progressives, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, only on vetting domestic officials in a prospective Hillary Clinton administration is so insufficient.
If a hawkish President Clinton surrounds herself with like-minded neocons and liberal hawks, the costs of their warmongering would surely swallow up the tax dollars necessary for domestic priorities – on infrastructure, education, health care, the environment and other pressing concerns.
And, if the McCarthyistic intolerance of The Washington Post influences or infects her administration, the genuine risks of World War III will dwarf any other worries.
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.