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).
The US uses its media to spread outright lies about Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, dismissing a report by the Washington Post about a ‘US diplomat’ ‘beaten’ by Russian security. In fact, it was a US spy who attacked a Russian police officer.
“US State Department and security services have been actively using the Washington Post for disseminating distorted information and outright lies about “harassment” of the US diplomats in Russia,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, commenting on a report by the US newspaper on the alleged beating of a US diplomat by Russian security staff.
The story in the report was completely made up, Zakharova said, dismissing the report published on June 29, in which the Washington Post claimed that a “Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) guard stationed outside the US Embassy in Moscow attacked and beat up a US diplomat who was trying to enter the compound.”
The ministry’s spokeswoman explained that, in reality, it was a US citizen who attacked a Russian security guard stationed outside the US embassy when the officer tried to check his ID.
“On the night of June 6, a taxi drove up to the US embassy in Moscow. A man with a hat drawn over his eyes jumped out of the car and rushed to the entrance. A police officer, who was on duty at the entrance, tried to check the ID of the suspicious man to ensure that there is no threat for the embassy,” Zakharova told journalists at a briefing on Thursday.
“Instead of letting the officer see his ID, the man hit him with an elbow in the face than pushed him away and fled to the embassy,” she added, stressing that the Washington Post report “not only distorts the information but openly contradicts the facts.”
She also emphasized that the attack on the police officer was recorded by the CCTV cameras and presented to the US State Department “long ago,” with Russian Foreign Ministry filing a protest over the incident.
It was later revealed that the man who attacked the officer was in fact a CIA agent, who worked in Russia under diplomatic cover and was returning from a mission on the night of the attack, the spokeswoman stressed, adding that the agent apparently tried to escape recognition.
She also said that information about the ‘diplomat’s’ allegedly broken shoulder reported by the Washington Post report is also false and was disproved by a video presented by the US side to the Russian ministry.
Zakharova also emphasized that it is the US that asked Russia to provide security for its embassy and send police to guard it. “Moreover, they [the US] regularly ask us to enhance [the embassy’s] security,” she added.
The ministry’s spokeswoman also expressed “regret” over “Washington deliberately souring the bilateral relations particularly by provocations and disinformation,” stressing that such policy “will not lead to anything good.”
The Washington Post report came just a day after Russian Foreign Ministry slammed another article by the US newspaper that claimed that “Russia is harassing US diplomats all over Europe.” It’s the Russian diplomats who are being pressured, not the other way around, the Foreign Ministry said, blasting the article.
Paris – Unification of Europe has brought about radical new divisions within Europe. The most significant split is between the people and their political leaders.
The June 23 British majority vote to leave the European Union has made strikingly evident the division between the new ruling class that flourishes in the globalized world without borders and all the others who are on the receiving end of policies that destroy jobs, cut social benefits, lower wages and reject as obsolete national customs, not least the custom of democratic choice, all to make the world safe for international investment capital.
Actually, the lines are not quite so clear-cut. Political choices never correspond completely to economic interests, and the ideological factor intervenes to blur the class lines. Globalization is not merely a process of economic integration regulated by flows of capital, which is deepening the polarization between rich and poor in the Western countries. It is also a powerful ideology, basing its moral certitudes on simplistic lessons drawn from twentieth century World Wars: the idea that the root cause of wars is a psychological attitude called “racism” which expresses itself in the nationalism of nation-states. This ideology gains semi-religious conviction by reference to the Holocaust, which is considered to have proven the point. Ergo, for the benefit of humanity, national borders must be torn down, national identities must be diluted by unlimited immigration, in order to achieve a worldwide multicultural society in which differences both coexist and cease to matter.
This is a Utopian notion as unsupported by evidence as the Soviet dream of creating a “new man” who voluntarily works unselfishly for the benefit of all. Similarly, it considers human psychology to be perfectible by economic and institutional arrangements. Especially by promoting immigration, the multicultural mix is supposed to result in people all loving each other; there are even national laws to punish alleged expressions of “hatred”. The European Union is seen as the most advanced experiment in this worldwide Utopia of universal love. It is regarded by its intellectual sponsors such as French political guru Jacques Attali as an irreversible advance of civilization. For its fanatic champions, the very thought of dismantling the European Union is equivalent to returning to the stone age.
A chorus of Europists are screaming to high heaven that the world is about to come to an end thanks to lower class Brits too stupid and too racist to appreciate the glorious globalized world that the European elite is preparing for them. One of the fastest on the draw of his pen was the hysterical propagandist Bernard-Henri Levy, whose venom quickly spilled onto the pages of Le Monde and other obsequious journals. BHL trotted out his entire range of insults to decry the LEAVE vote as the victory of demagogy, xenophobia, the extreme right and the extreme left, hatred of immigrants, stupid nationalism, vicious hatred, the unleashed mob, idiot leftists, drunken hooligans, the forces of darkness against civilization, and even the victory of garden dwarfs over Michelangelo. Many others worked the same theme, with less verbiage.
The main theme of this wailing and gnashing of teeth is the allegation that the LEAVE vote was motivated solely by racism, racism being the only possible reason that people could object to mass unregulated immigration. But there are indeed other reasons.
In reality, for the majority of working class voters, opposition to unlimited immigration can be plainly a matter of economic self-interest. Since the EU’s eastward expansion ended immigration controls with the former communist countries, hundreds of thousands of workers from Poland, Lithuania, and other Eastern European nations have flooded into Britain, adding to the large established immigrant population from the British Commonwealth countries. It is simply a fact that mass immigration brings down wage levels in a country. A Glasgow University study shows statistically that as immigration rises, the level of wages in proportion to profits drops – not to mention the increase in unemployment.
Those who enjoy the pleasure of traveling through Europe without having to stop at borders or change currencies and who relish the luxury level of cultural diversity find it hard to understand the anguish of those who lack advanced degrees, family connections or language skills, and who feel marginalized in their own countries. Yes, some of them probably like garden dwarfs. But you cannot convince millions of people that their only prospect in life must be to sacrifice themselves for the glory of the World Market.
Moreover, whatever their social status, many people in Britain find it unbearable to renounce their traditional parliamentary democracy in order to carry out Directives and Regulations drafted in Brussels without even any public discussion.
The astonishment and indignation of the Europists to see Britons vote to go out is odd considering that most Britons never really felt entirely in. When I worked as press officer at the European Parliament, I observed that the only national press corps really present and interested was the British press corps, all eagerly on the lookout for the latest absurd rule or regulation which the Brussels bureaucracy was foisting on the Member States. British media paid attention to the EU because they hated it. Ridiculing it was fun. The rest of European media were largely ignoring it because it was boring and nobody cared. Main exception: a few earnest Germans doing their job.
In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher forced the EU to twist its rules by demanding “my money back”. The United Kingdom stayed out of the Schengen Treaty on free movement of persons. It refused the euro in favor of keeping the pound sterling. More profoundly, the insular English have always had a strong sense of not belonging to “the continent” as well as a particular sensitivity to the notorious “democratic deficit” of the European Union, which leaves law-making to the Brussels bureaucracy.
Considering the insular nature of Britain and its psychological distance from the continent, it is too soon to expect that other EU Member States will soon follow the British example. Indeed, some of the most Euroskeptical populations today were the most Euroenthusiastic in the past, notably France and Italy, and it is awkward to turn around 180 degrees. For charter Members France, Italy, Benelux and Germany, the break would be much more dramatic. Nevertheless, even in those key Eurozone countries disenchantment with the EU is growing rapidly. Brexit is seen as a warning signal. Thus the Western ruling class will hasten to try to shore up the EU-NATO fortress. The Washington Post quickly called for “strengthening NATO”. This probably means even more strident denunciations of Putin and the “Russian threat”, if such as possible. There is supposedly nothing like an external threat to bring people together.
Unfortunately, this referendum did not mark a clean break. Two great difficulties loom. EU rules require a lengthy and complicated process to actually withdraw, a matter of years. And second, there is no viable political force ready to steer Britain through this process. The result is to split the political class still further from the people it should be representing.
The British political landscape is littered with wreckage. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron called the referendum for internal political reasons, failing to realize that if given the chance, the British would vote to jump ship. His name is now mud all over Europe, condemned for the foolish move of letting people vote on the EU. Cameron has announced his resignation, but his government is dragging its feet in initiating the withdrawal process. Some are even demanding that the referendum be either ignored or held over again until people vote as they should – the procedure that followed previous national referendums that turned out badly for the EU. Meanwhile EU leaders are demanding that London hurry up and get out, so they can get to work strengthening the edifice.
Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party that campaigned for leaving the EU is a single issue party with no general program and no aspiration to run the government. Former London mayor Boris Johnson has positioned himself to take over Party leadership by advocating Brexit, but he is not taken seriously by most of his own Conservative party and is also stalling on the exit procedure.
The situation of the Labour Party is critical. Jeremy Corbyn, who was elected party leader by a grass roots uprising expressing a strong popular desire to move the party to the left, comparable to the Bernie movement in Democratic Party primaries, has always been opposed by the Blairites who still dominate the party apparatus and parliamentary representation. In this uncomfortable situation the gentle Corbyn has tried to exercise what is meant to be an inclusive sort of leadership, listening to all sides. This softness already led to the mistake of failing to strongly defend party members falsely accused of “anti-Semitism” by pro-Israel zealots. Now the Blairites are blaming Corbyn for what they consider the Brexit catastrophe. It is all supposed to be the fault of Corbyn for having failed to support REMAIN vigorously enough.
Indeed Corbyn’s support of REMAIN was mild, some say because he actually favored LEAVE, but was bowing to the majority in the upper ranks of his party. This concession, if it was one, has not prevented the Blairites from demanding that Corbyn resign as party leader. Petitions are circulating both for and against him.
The trouble is that the mainstream caricature of the Brexit voters as narrow-minded racists, if not protofascists, has not been balanced by any articulation of the strong underlying rejection of the EU as a denial of democracy, as the authoritarian rule by a self-satisfied globalizing elite with total contempt for what the people might really want.
There is no political party in Britain that is at all prepared to turn away from the increasingly discredited and disavowed globalization trend in order to lead the way to a truly democratic alternative.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s the Russian diplomats who are being pressured, not the other way around, the Foreign Ministry said, blasting a Washington Post article that claimed Russia harasses US diplomatic staff at home and all across Europe.
“The Washington Post has published an article on alleged harassment of US diplomats in Russia and in other countries. But, on the contrary, the pressure is increasing on Russian diplomats,” Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said Tuesday.
According to the spokeswoman, Washington is “constantly coming up with new restrictions against our diplomats, who constantly face provocations from the FBI and the CIA.”
She stressed that “unacceptable measures” are being applied against them, including “psychological pressure in the presence of their families.”
“There even had been cases when such actions were carried out in the presence of pregnant wives of our diplomats,” she added.
“Instead of receiving our signal, identifying the problem and creating conditions to improve our relations, they (the US) flip everything upside down” by releasing the publication, she added.
On Monday, the Washington Post published an article, entitled, “Russia is harassing US diplomats all over Europe.”
The author of the piece claimed that instances of Russian pressure included breaking into the homes of American embassy staff, rearranging furniture there and even killing a family dog.
Zakharova slammed the article by the US paper as a perfect example of “propaganda,” adding that it was “obviously played up.”
“This publication is shallow, this publication does not reflect the real picture, it was prepared hastily, it was prepared by hearsay,” she stressed.
The main expert in the article is the former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, who Zakharova called “unfit for [his] profession” who now talks about the hardships of working in Moscow after failing on the job.
“McFaul failed [in] his diplomatic mission in Moscow, and possibly it was his efforts that contributed to the worsening of bilateral relations,” she said.
Zakharova said that despite the pressure Moscow is ready to work with Washington to improve relations.
“Our counterparts should make up their mind as to what is it they want in reality: to develop relations, or at least, not to make them worse, or cook [up] more such publications,” she said.
In May, the US Senate Intelligence Committee passed The 2017 Intelligence Authorization Bill, which among other measures, proposes restrictions on travel by Russian diplomats in the US.
The legislation would require the FBI to investigate all requests by US-based Russian diplomats to travel outside his or her official post, in order to ensure the diplomats have properly notified the US government of their travel plans.
The Senate is to vote on the proposal later in summer, with Moscow saying that it will respond with mirror-like measures to restrictions on its diplomatic staff.
“As it worsens relations with Russia, Washington makes the working conditions for its diplomats worse, too,” Zakharova said.
“We do hope that we will achieve constructive relations with the United States. We are prepared for that,” she added.
A danger in today’s Western journalism is that the people in charge of the mainstream media are either neocon ideologues or craven careerists who will accept any official attack on geopolitical “enemies” without checking out the facts, such as with the Iraq War’s WMD myth or the curious case of Sergei Magnitsky.
Magnitsky’s 2009 death in a Russian jail became a Western cause célèbre with the accountant for hedge-fund executive William Browder hailed as a martyr in the cause of whistleblowing against a profoundly corrupt Russian government. After Magnitsky’s death from a heart attack, Browder claimed his “lawyer” had been tortured and murdered to cover up official complicity in a $230 million tax-fraud scheme involving companies ostensibly under Browder’s control.
Because of Browder’s wealth and political influence, he succeeded in getting the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress to buy into his narrative and move to punish the presumed villains in the tax fraud and in Magnitsky’s death. The U.S.-enacted Magnitsky Act in 2012 was an opening salvo in what has become a new Cold War between Washington and Moscow.
The Magnitsky narrative has now become so engrained in Western geopolitical mythology that the storyline apparently can no longer be questioned or challenged, which brings us to the current controversy about a new documentary that turns the case upside-down and again reveals the superficiality, bias and hypocrisy of the West’s politicians and news media.
The West’s reaction has been to block the public airing of the documentary – to any significant audience – while simultaneously branding it Russian “agit-prop,” the attack line used by The Washington Post in a Monday editorial. In other words, the treatment of the film is reminiscent of a totalitarian society where the public only hears about dissent when the Official Organs of the State denounce some almost unknown person.
In this case, the Post’s editorial writers under the direction of neocon editor Fred Hiatt note the film’s showing in a rented room at Washington’s Newseum and then seek to discredit the filmmaker, Andrei Nekrasov, without addressing his avalanche of documented examples of Browder’s misrepresenting both big and small facts in the case.
Instead, the Post accuses Nekrasov of using “facts highly selectively” and insinuates that he is merely a pawn in the Kremlin’s “campaign to discredit Mr. Browder and the Magnitsky Act.” The Post concludes smugly:
“The film won’t grab a wide audience, but it offers yet another example of the Kremlin’s increasingly sophisticated efforts to spread its illiberal values and mind-set abroad. In the European Parliament and on French and German television networks, showings were put off recently after questions were raised about the accuracy of the film, including by Magnitsky’s family. We don’t worry that Mr. Nekrasov’s film was screened here, in an open society. But it is important that such slick spin be fully exposed for its twisted story and sly deceptions.”
Watching the Film
After reading the Post’s editorial, I managed to get a password for viewing the documentary, “The Magnitsky Act. Behind the Scenes,” on the Internet and I was struck by how thoroughly dishonest and “highly selective” the Post’s editors had been in their attack on the film.
For instance, the Post writes, “The film is a piece of agitprop that mixes fact and fiction to blame Magnitsky for the fraud and absolve Russians of blame for his death.” While it is correct that Nekrasov “mixes fact and fiction,” that is because the documentary is, in part, the story of his planned docu-drama which was intended to embrace and dramatize Browder’s narrative. Nekrasov begins the project as Browder’s friend and ally.
It was during the docu-drama’s production that Nekrasov begins to detect inconsistencies and contradictions in Browder’s storyline, including how a woman executive in one of Browder’s shell companies alerted police to the tax-fraud scam, not Magnitsky, and that Magnitsky as an accountant in the business was called in for questioning by police. In other words, Magnitsky comes across as a criminal suspect, not a noble whistleblower.
As the documentary proceeds, Nekrasov struggles with the dilemma as his scripted docu-drama portraying Magnitsky as a martyr falls apart. When Nekrasov’s questions become more pointed, his friendship with Browder also painfully unravels.
One of the powerful aspects of the film is that it shows Browder grow petulant and evasive as his well-received narrative begins to come undone, both in interviews with Nekrasov and in a videotaped deposition from a related civil case.
Key points of the deception are revealed not by Kremlin officials but by Magnitsky’s supporters who challenge pieces of Browder’s embroidered story, such as elevating Magnitsky from an accountant to a “lawyer.”
Another key piece of Browder’s tale – that corrupt police raided his offices to seize original corporate records and seals to set up shell companies to perpetrate the tax fraud – crumbles when Nekrasov shows Russian laws that don’t require such records and discovers that the registrations were accomplished by straw men apparently controlled by Browder and operating under powers of attorney.
Though I am no expert on the Magnitsky case – and there surely may be flaws in the documentary – what is clear is that the widely accepted version of the Magnitsky case, portraying him and his boss as noble do-gooders who become victims of a convoluted police conspiracy, is no longer tenable or at least deserves a serious reexamination.
But preventing the Western public from seeing this important film – and then demonizing it in a Washington Post editorial on the assumption that almost no one will see it – amount to the behavior of a totalitarian society where “agit-prop” does rule, except in this case it is anti-Russian agit-prop that escapes any serious scrutiny.
Sensational reports of Russian government spies hacking into the Democrat party’s computers weren’t the usual anti-Moscow smear job. Republican presidential contender Donald Trump also took a hit in the double whammy.
The abrasive business tycoon may have a popular following among grass roots voters, but he has managed to garner powerful enemies within the American establishment. Not least large sections of the corporate news media, the military and foreign policy arms of US government.
Government-owned news outlet Voice of America reports this week that Republican leaders are “wringing their hands” over Trump and seeking to nix his presidential nomination. This impetus against the billionaire politician has grown in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, when Trump “doubled down” on controversial anti-Muslim rhetoric, which is seen as divisive and alienating voters.
Trump’s enemies in the media are topped by the Washington Post after he banned the newspaper from covering his campaign. In an unprecedented move, he revoked official accreditation to the paper’s reporters after he slammed the Post for “phony and dishonest” coverage. The paper has prominently featured columns that purport to “debunk” many of Trump’s political claims and statements.
Trump made another powerful enemy when he scoffed at the US-led military umbrella NATO, deriding the 28-member military bloc as an “obsolete” organization. He also said he would slash US financial and military commitments if elected president. Trump stepped on serious toes there since NATO can be seen as a lynchpin of American imperial power projection and a crucial financial pump for the Pentagon and its military-industrial complex.
Earlier this month, CNN ran an “exclusive” op piece to NATO. Headlined “Inside NATO as it faces fire from Trump”, the organization was given ample space to justify its existence as “cutting edge” and “transforming” for its stated purpose of maintaining global security. Trump’s name wasn’t mentioned explicitly by NATO officials, but it was obvious that he had rankled the alliance, and it was out to burnish its image, which CNN generously indulged.
Now let’s deal with the smear job at issue. On Tuesday, the Washington Post splashed with this story: “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump”.
The Post’s “national security” reporter Ellen Nakashima writes: “Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.”
The first thing to note is the poor journalistic standard, whereby the headline of a news report is presented as a fact – “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC” – when the information is actually only a claim “according to committee officials and security experts”, as the first paragraph discloses.
And on reading the article it turns out that the claim made against the Russian government is underwhelming. The entire article is based on the hearsay of the private security firm employed by the Democrat party. There is no evidence presented to substantiate the assertion that the alleged hackers were linked to Russian military intelligence (GRU) or its state security service (FSB).
This is true to form for that Washington Post reporter. Last year, Nakashima published several articles in which she similarly claimed that Russia and Chinese government hackers had broken into the White House network and other federal databases. Again, those articles were based on unverified claims by anonymous officials and private security firms.
For the record, the Russian government flatly denied having anything to do with the latest computer hack at the DNC. “I completely rule out a possibility that the [Russian] government or the government bodies have been involved in this,” said Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman.
A second telling aspect about the story was that on the same day that the Washington Post led on it, all the major US media, and some prominent British ones too, also ran with it. All with nearly the same wording of the factually sounding headline imputing the Russian government. That kind of wall-to-wall, uniform coverage is indicative that the story was primed by a governmental agency for media broadcast. In short, a disinformation campaign.
The obvious target here is Russia. Not for the first time has the Kremlin been accused with breaching US computer networks and generally being a sinister specter threatening national security – as if Washington is not also carrying out the same espionage and worse. The hacker story is but just one more twist in Washington’s overarching anti-Russia narrative, including accusations that it is destabilizing European states, annexed Crimea, is invading Ukraine, and bombing hospitals and civilians in Syria.
Russian spies allegedly interfering in American domestic politics and a presidential election by hacking into the Democrat National Committee is aimed at whipping up Cold War public resentment towards Moscow.
But perhaps the bigger target of the disinformation is Donald J Trump.
Notice how the alleged Russian hack was coupled prominently with “stealing opposition research on Trump”. And, pointedly, all the media headlines also featured this aspect. Patently, the Trump detail was intended as a “talking point”, as they say in state intelligence parlance.
The Trump campaign reportedly brushed off the “news” that personal information had been accessed by hackers. His campaign team breezily referred reporters to contact federal investigators.
However, here’s the thing. By making it appear that the Russians have the goods, or the dirt, on Trump the intended effect is that he would be viewed as “compromised” in the eyes of American voters. He would be, according to this logic, a national security risk if elected president, vulnerable to being manipulated, blackmailed or some other form of coercion – by America’s number one global enemy, Russia.
The Washington Post is not the only one with a confluence of interest in running the Russian hacker/Trump damaged story. The private security firm, CrowdStrike, that the DNC contracted to purportedly hunt for the Russian spyware is linked to NATO and the US foreign policy establishment. And it is CrowdStrike’s assessment upon which the entire story in the Washington Post and all the other media outlets is based.
Dmitri Alperovitz, CrowdStrike’s chief technology officer, is quoted frequently as the main source of the story, and as saying they have “high confidence” it was Russian hackers, “but we don’t have hard evidence”.
In what seems a clumsy disclosure, the Washington Post article makes a passing reference to Alperovitz being “a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council”.
The Atlantic Council, based in Washington DC, is a high-profile international think tank that publishes papers, holds seminars and hosts leading American and European public figures to present a solidly “Atlanticist” US foreign policy. The Atlantic Council is tightly aligned with the US-led NATO military alliance and is regularly briefed by NATO leaders, including former commander General Philip Breedlove and current secretary general Jens Stoltenberg. It is an avid cheer leader for the anti-Russian narrative that dominates US policy towards Moscow.
In sum, the latest media smear job on Russia was a double dirty trick. With Donald Trump also on the receiving end.