Last night, the Syrian army and its allies withdrew from Sheikh Saeed neighborhood of Aleppo city under the pressure by Jaish al-Fatah militants. Government forces remain in control of some points in the southern part of the area where clashes are ongoing. The army is also in control of the recently liberated areas of Sadkop and Ma’saraniyah Youth Housing.

Russian and Syrian engineering units have reportedly demined almost the whole area of Masaken Hanano that had been liberated by pro-government forces from Jaish al-Fatah militants. Civilians will be able to return to their homes as soon as the whole area is secured.

The Russian Aerospace Forces delivered about 12 airstrikes in the Syrian province of Idlib on December 1, according to local sources. Russian warplanes allegedly targeted 3 militant tactical units and a military vehicle on the way to the province of Aleppo.

Earlier this week reports appeared that Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) has been deploying reinforcements to the western countryside of Aleppo city. Russian and Syrian airstrikes are aimed to prevent relaunching of militant attempts to break the government defenses in the area.

The Syrian army set a full control over the Western Ghouta region after militants were transferred from the area under the agreement with the government. Militants had handed over some 2 Shilka self-propelled guns, 7 battle tanks, 11 infantry fighting vehicles, over 600 heavy and general purpose machine guns and other equipment to government forces before withdrawal.

 

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On November 30th, Buzzfeed bannered “Intel Officials Believe Russia Spreads Fake News”. Their ‘reporter’ (that is, stenographer of U.S. government propaganda) opened: “US intelligence officials believe Russia helped disseminate fake and propagandized news as part of a broader effort to influence and undermine the presidential election, two US intelligence sources told BuzzFeed News.”

‘They’re doing this continuously, that’s a known fact,’ one US intelligence official said, requesting anonymity to discuss the sensitive national security issue.

‘This is beyond propaganda, that’s my understanding,’ the second US intelligence official said. The official said they believed those efforts likely included the dissemination of completely fake news stories. …

One intelligence official said, ‘In the context, did Russia attempt to influence the US elections; the aperture is as wide as it can possibly be.'”

Then, there was this:

“One of the intelligence officials who spoke to BuzzFeed News said the lack of clarity had proven to be a challenge in combating the propaganda efforts.

‘The real unanswered question is, why did they do it?’ the second US intelligence official said. ‘Is it because they love Donald Trump? Because they hated Hillary Clinton? Or just because they like undermining Western democracies?’

On this, the official said, there was no consensus.”

Even before the new U.S. President, Donald Trump, comes into office, the U.S. Establishment (of which buzzfeed is a Democratic Party mouthpiece) is trying to de-legitimize him, by alleging that he’s an ‘enemy’-agent, Vladimir Putin’s fool or worse.

This anti-Russian campaign continues the U.S. Establishment’s, and U.S. ‘news’media’s, war for Hillary Clinton (the U.S. aristocracy’s approved agent) and against Donald Trump, which propaganda-campaign during the Presidential contest was exemplified by such ‘news’-reporting as this, on 10 October 2016:

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-9-00-29-am

Whatever the actual truth of this matter might be (and it’s certainly not what the U.S. ’news’ media are pumping): trusting the U.S. Government to be delivering that truth would be foolhardy, after, for example, George W. Bush and his Administration having lied this nation into invading Iraq in 2003 and the U.S. propaganda-media such as The New York Times and Washington Post having reported stenographically the Government’s lies and suppressed the contrary known truths  — and the U.S. ‘intelligence’ agencies that had pumped the lies became blamed afterward for it all, as if they had originated the ‘errors’ — even the cover-ups were then lies, because the lies originated in the President of the United States and the U.S. ‘news’ media refused to publish the disproofs of them.

Only fools trust the U.S. Government and its ‘news’ media anymore. After all, how many of these ‘news’ media have reported the truth that the Obama Administration perpetrated in February 2014 a bloody coup (fronted by anti-corruption demonstrations) to overthrow the Moscow-friendly Ukrainian government headed by Viktor Yanukovych and replace it with a fascist and even nazi (or racist-fascist) government that blames Russians (instead of, like Hitler’s nazism) Jews (because the U.S. aristocracy hates Russians, not Jews), all in order for the U.S. to be able to place missiles in Ukraine on Russia’s very doorstep? And how many reported the ethnic-cleansing operation by that new U.S.-installed government, to exterminate the residents in the region of Ukraine that had voted 90% for Yanukovych — the Ukrainian President whom Obama had just ousted?

And the entire U.S. Government basis for sanctions against Russia is based upon Russia’s ‘conquest’ of Crimea, which occurred three weeks after Obama grabbed Ukraine and was anything but a ‘conquest’ though Obama called it that and his ’news’ media pumped the lie and ignored the fact that Crimea’s return to being again part of Russia was a direct response by Crimeans against Obama’s theft and replacement of the Ukrainian government that 75% of Crimeans had voted for.

Are the U.S. ‘news’ media and government any more trustworthy now than they were in 2002 — or in 2014?

Many of the U.S.-billionaire-owned and controlled ‘news’ media, both in the U.S. and associated aristocracies, have now officially formed a censorship-operation, called “First Draft News”, to systematize their filtering-out of facts (such as I have here linked to regarding Ukraine and Crimea) that they don’t want their respective publics to have access to.

This issue of press-control has nothing to do with the question of whether Trump was the better candidate (Americans preferred Bernie Sanders, whom the aristocracy blocked from winning the Democratic nomination), but everything to do with Trump’s inheriting a U.S. aristocracy — and its associated foreign aristocracies, and their respective press-operations — that’s hostile not only to him, but to Putin, and hoping to be able to oust both.

In an ‘oligarchy’ (more honestly called an “aristocracy” because it’s not found only in “banana republics”) such as the U.S. Government is, this institutionalized lying is the reality; and the historical background to it can be found here and here. I presented the post-1990 portion of it here. Back in 1992, the BBC did a documentary about the history of it between the end of World War II and the end of the Soviet Union, and that’s here.

On November 30th, Spencer Ackerman and Julian Borger, in Britain’s Guardian, headlined about this ongoing operation, now against Trump: “US legislation proposes new committee to counteract Russian ‘covert influence’: Congress set to review bills to authorize intelligence body to oppose Russian interference and propaganda, which could be at odds with Trump administration.”

The big question now is whether Trump will do the bidding of the U.S. aristocracy, or whether he’ll actually go to war against them and bring crashing down the fascist operation that has controlled the U.S. Government since at least 1990 and which is commonly called “neoconservatism”. The signs on that are not yet clear. Here, from Michael Averko, is the best discussion I’ve found of an important part of that: Trump’s search for a suitable U.S. Secretary of State.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Russia Again Disciplines The Wannabe Sultan Erdogan

December 2nd, 2016 by Moon of Alabama

The Russians just gave (again) a public lecture of how to handle the wannabe-Sultan Erdogan.

Turkey entered Syria to end al-Assad’s rule: President Erdoğan  – November 29

The Turkish military launched its operations in Syria to end the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Nov. 29.“In my estimation, nearly 1 million people have died in Syria. These deaths are still continuing without exception for children, women and men. Where is the United Nations? What is it doing? Is it in Iraq? No. We preached patience but could not endure in the end and had to enter Syria together with the Free Syrian Army [FSA],” Erdoğan said at the first Inter-Parliamentary Jerusalem Platform Symposium in Istanbul.

“Why did we enter? We do not have an eye on Syrian soil. The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice. We entered there to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror. [We didn’t enter] for any other reason,” the president said.

If Turkish troops were in Syria to remove its President, instead with the flimsy excuse of fighting ISIS under a badly fitting UN mandate, they would be a hostile invasion force and a legitimate target for Syria and its allies. The remark was thus stupid.  It weakened the Turkish position.

Erdogan was immediately told so:

Kremlin asks Erdogan to clarify ‘anti-Assad’ goals in Syria – November 30

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement that his goal in Syria was to end the rule of Bashar Assad has caused consternation in the Kremlin, with officials saying it contradicted previous assurances and was out of sync with Moscow’s take on the situation.”The statement was indeed news, this is a very serious statement. [It] is in discord with the previous [statements] in general and with our understanding of the situation,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“We hope that in the near future there will be explanations on this from our Turkish partners,” he said, adding that Russia is the only country whose armed forces are in Syria on a legitimate basis – at the direct request of the Syrian authorities.

The emphasized part is a hardly hidden direct threat. Erdogan put his forces in Syria into immediate jeopardy.

Erdogan tried to save the situation, promising a retreat from his statement for at least some gain for the Jihadis he supports.

Erdogan and Putin discuss #Aleppo for the third time this week: Disagreement over ceasefire? – November 30

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed the grave situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by phone on Nov. 30 for the third time in a week, with the two “agreeing on the need for a ceasefire,” presidential sources said.The sources said the two leaders agreed to step up efforts to stop clashes in Aleppo and deliver humanitarian aid to civilians in the besieged city.

That was the Turkish version of the call. The Russian statement on that call was sparse and did not mention any ceasefire.

Thus this translation from Diplomatese:

“I will take that statement back if you give me a ceasefire deal in Aleppo,” Erdogan told President Putin.

“Screw you,” was the response.

Turkey, Russia see need for Aleppo truce but divisions remain – December 1

Lavrov said the bloodshed must stop in Syria and the region, that Moscow was ready to talk to all parties in the war, and that it would continue cooperating with Turkey. But he also vowed Russia would continue its operations in eastern Aleppo and would rescue the city from what he described as terrorists.

Erdogan’s statement, aimed at his supporters in Turkey and elsewhere, created a legal mess for his troops. The attempt to sell a retreat from it for some gain was harshly rejected by Russia. Now all Erdogan could do was to take his statement back with no gain at all. This was quite a loss of face for him – a well deserved one.

Operation in Syria only targets terror, Erdoğan clarifies – December 1

Turkey’s military operation in Syria is not against any country or person but terror groups in general, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, in contrast to earlier remarks that Turkey’s objective was to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following.“The aim of the Euphrates Shield Operation is no country or person but only terror organizations. No one should doubt this issue that we have uttered over and over, and no one should comment on it in another fashion or try to [misrepresent its meaning],” Erdoğan said at a 30th gathering with village chiefs at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on Dec. 1.

Hahaha – see how that dog pulls its tail between its legs – whining in retreat?

The game Erdogan tried would probably have worked with Merkel, or some other EU politician. Russia will have none of it. No means no. When Russia says stay out of Al-Bab it means stay out of Al-Bab. With regard to Syria Erdogan now has to do what he is told to do. He was just publicly lectured about that again. Still, I doubt that he really learned the lesson.

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Trump’s Economic Plan: This Isn’t Going to Work

December 2nd, 2016 by Mike Whitney

Will Donald Trump be good for the US economy?

The American people seem to think so. According to a recent survey taken by Gallup “Americans have relatively high expectations (of) the president-elect… Substantial majorities (upward of 60%) believe the Trump administration will improve the economy and create jobs. A slim majority (52%) say he’ll improve the healthcare system.”

Even more impressive, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index spiked to a 93.8 -high in November, signaling a significant improvement in overall consumer attitudes about the economy.

Analysts attribute this change in outlook to the recent presidential election which showed a marked-uptick in optimism “across all income and age subgroups across the country.”

“The initial reaction of consumers to Trump’s victory was to express greater optimism about their personal finances as well as improved prospects for the national economy,” said Richard Curtin, the survey’s chief economist.

So, people are not just giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, they genuinely think their economic situation is going to get better under the new president.

The results are particularly significant when we realize that the economy not only topped the list of important issues going into the November elections, but that also (according to a survey conducted by Edison Research) “Three in five voters said the country was seriously on the wrong track and about the same number said the economy was either not good or poor. Two-thirds said their personal financial situation was either worse or the same as it was four years ago. About one in three voters said they expected life to be worse for the next generation.”

In other words, the election was a referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy, in which 60 percent of those surveyed, think was a failure. These results also suggest that, had Obama made any attempt to address wage stagnation, shrinking incomes, student debt, or widespread economic insecurity, Hillary Clinton would probably be president today. As it happens, the victory went to the anti-establishment outsider who promised a fundamental change in direction, Donald Trump.

This is particularly worth thinking about now that protests have broken out in cities across the country and liberals are accusing Trump supporters of voting for a racist. No, the majority of Trump supporters did not vote for a racist (surveys also show that a majority of these people support a way for undocumented immigrants to attain US citizenship) nor do the approve of the white nationalist movement. They voted for someone who they thought would change the economic policies that have been destructive to their interests. Trump won the election because he addressed the issues that matter to ordinary working people and refrained from such foolishness as running around with his hair on fire blaming the Russians for everything under the sky. Hillary Clinton got exactly what she deserved.

Now the question is: Can Trump deliver?

The question is not only important for the American people, but also for the Trump administration that figures its prospects for success depend largely on an economic revival. Steve Bannon, who is Trump’s chief strategist and advisor, knows that he won’t be able to build a strong, divers coalition to support his political revolution without boosting growth and improving conditions for working people. That’s why fixing the economy is Job 1.

Here’s a quote from Bannon:

“The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over. If we deliver…”we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years. That’s what the Democrats missed. They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It’s not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about.”…

“It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.” (Ringside with Steve Bannon, Hollywood Reporter)

I don’t pretend to know anything more about Steve Bannon than I’ve read in the newspapers and on the Internet. What I do know, however, is that if he is sincere in his desire to defeat the corrupt political establishment and build a coalition that “will govern for 50 years”, he’s going to have to find a way to climb down on his hardline immigration policies in order to implement his economic strategy. That said, I expect Trump will settle on some way to minimize the damage he has done to himself and call on congress to get more involved in the hot-button immigration issue. In other words, he’s going to have to punt if he wants to govern.

Bannon is the main architect of Trump’s economic plan, a plan that has already earned broad public support, but a plan that won’t succeed unless it is drastically changed. Here’s why:

Trump’s economic plan can be broken into three parts: Tax cuts, deregulation and fiscal stimulus.

As far as tax cuts, there are three main subsets:

1–The corporate tax rate, which Trump wants to drop from 35 percent to 15 percent.

2–A tax cut on the so-called “repatriation of funds”– which lowers the rate on roughly $2 trillion of cash that’s currently stashed overseas by uber-rich US businesses that have been evading US corporate taxes for years. Trump wants to give these tax dodgers a one-time “holiday” with a 10% penalty for companies that agree to bring their cash back to the US. Trump believes that the one-time tax break will increase business investment and employment in the US. Critics say the scheme will not work unless the economy strengthens and demand grows.

3–Trump also wants to reduce the top tax rate from 39.6% to 33%, while making modest reductions to the other brackets. Under the Trump plan, “a taxpayer who makes between $48,000 to $83,000 a year would save about $1,000 (while) people in the top 0.01%, making $3.7 million or more in a year, would receive $1 million in annual tax savings.” (USA Today)

Here’s a brief summary from economist Dean Baker:

“According to the analysis of the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, (Trump’s) tax plan will reduce revenue by more than $9 trillion (close to 4 percent of GDP) over the course of the next decade. This tax cut plan would effectively add close to $800 billion to the annual deficit when it first takes effect, with the amount increasing over time……

“According to the Tax Policy Center, more than half of Trump’s tax cuts will go to the richest one percent of the population. The richest 0.1 percent will get tax cuts that average almost $1.5 million annually. The Trump tax cut is consistent with the fundamental principle of the Republican Party, and unfortunately many Democrats, of putting as much money as possible in the pockets of the rich.” (Republican deficit hawks abandon their religion, Smirking Chimp)

As you can see, most of the benefits from the proposed tax cuts go to the extremely rich. How does that fit with Trump’s campaign promise:

“I am proposing an across-the-board income-tax reduction, especially for middle-income Americans…The tax relief will be concentrated on the working and middle-class taxpayer. They will receive the biggest benefit – it won’t even be close.”

The tax cuts look like a serious betrayal of Trump’s supporters. They also look like a misguided , short-term strategy that will derail Bannon’s plan for broad coalition based on a strong economic growth and rising wages. This latest iteration of “trickle down” economics will not help him achieve that goal.

Unfortunately, the other parts of Trump’s economic plan are equally dismal. For example, Trump is determined to repeal many of the key provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, the toothless bill that Congress passed in order to prevent another financial meltdown. At present, Texas congressman, Jeb Hensarling — an outspoken critic of Dodd-Frank appears to be the frontrunner in the competition for US Treasury Secretary. Hensarling, who just last week said “Dodd-Frank was a grave mistake”, is pushing his own Wall Street-friendly Financial CHOICE act, which would replace the bill with a “pro-growth, pro-consumer” alternative” that would protect the banks from ‘growth-strangling regulation.” (Housingwire)

Is that what we really need, more laws to protect the banks?? Check out this clip from Fortune Magazine:

“Hensarling wants to put the market in charge. His view is that encouraging banks to hold lots of capital (as Dodd-Frank does) goes far enough by itself to shore up the system, making banks far safer than the law’s dense web of stress tests, complex limits on trading, and banning of mortgages and credit cards deemed “abusive” by regulators. Now that Republicans control Congress and the White House, it’s highly possible that the Hensarling manifesto, or a large part of it, will become law…

“I will not rest until Dodd-Frank is ripped out by its roots and tossed on the trash bin of history,” (Hensarling) declared in a recent speech. The centerpiece of the CHOICE act is a provision that would exempt banks from the more restrictive Dodd-Frank regulations…” (This Congressman Could Turn the Dodd-Frank Financial Reforms Upside Down, Fortune)

The idea that a Congressman can devote all his energy to lifting the ban on “abusive mortgages” — just eight years after abusive, predatory, toxic mortgages blew up the global financial system costing roughly $50 trillion and years of agonizing retrenchment– seems almost treasonous, doesn’t it? And yet, at the very least, Hensarling is likely to become one of Trump’s chief advisors on financial regulations. Go figure?

What, in God’s name, is Trump trying to achieve? On the one hand, he blames the Fed for inflating another gigantic asset bubble and, on the other, he tries to remove the regulatory obstacles to bubble-making. What sense does that make?

Here’s a little more background on Trump’s crusade against regulation. This is from the Wall Street Journal:

“Donald Trump has tapped a longtime critic of heavy regulation to flesh out his new administration’s plans for remaking the financial rule book, including the potential dismantling of much of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul.

Paul Atkins served as a Republican member of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 2002 to 2008, where he spoke out against big fines for companies, arguing they punish shareholders. Now Mr. Atkins, 58 years old, is the member of the president-elect’s transition team charged with recommending policies on financial regulation, according to current and former regulators briefed on the matter.

Mr. Trump has detailed little about his views on financial regulation beyond his vow to dismantle the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.” (Donald Trump’s Point Man on Financial Regulation: A Former Regulator Who Favors a Light Touch, Wall Street Journal)

Trump also wants to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which recently imposed a $100 million fine on Wells Fargo for using bank employees to create more than 2 million unauthorized accounts to meet sales quotas. The action was applauded by consumer groups across the board which is why Trump will make every effort to defang the watchdog agency. The president-elect appears to be gearing up to eliminate any rule that impairs Wall Street’s ability to rake in bigger profits, whether it puts the American people at risk or not.

So how does this square with Steve Bannon’s comments about coalition building and desire for a stronger economy?

I can’t figure it out, after all, Bannon sounds like a true believer, a no-nonsense, red-blooded, blue collar working guy who hates the Wall Street, the Republican establishment and the mainstream media. What’s not to like about that?

But how does Bannon’s hardscrabble upbringing, his commitment to tea party uprising, and his take-no-prisoners combativeness, jibe with these flagrant tax giveaways, this anti-worker deregulation, and a fiscal policy that only benefits the uber wealthy? I don’t get it??

In an extremely persuasive interview with Buzzfeed News, Bannon disparages the new strain of “Ayn Rand” capitalism that objectifies people and turns them into commodities. He expands on this idea by giving a brief synopsis of the financial crisis that many will find galvanizing. Here’s a clip:

“The 2008 crisis, … which, by the way, I don’t think we’ve come through — is really driven I believe by the greed, much of it driven by the greed of the investment banks. …
And one of the reasons is that we’ve never really gone and dug down and sorted through the problems of 2008. Particularly the fact — think about it — not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with 2008 crisis. And in fact, it gets worse. No bonuses and none of their equity was taken. So part of the prime drivers of the wealth that they took in the 15 years leading up to the crisis was not hit at all, and I think that’s one of the fuels of this populist revolt that we’re seeing as the tea party…

The bailouts were absolutely outrageous, and here’s why: It bailed out a group of shareholders and executives who were specifically accountable. …

In fact, one of the committees in Congress said to the Justice Department 35 executives, I believe, that they should have criminal indictments against — not one of those has ever been followed up on. … (and) Middle-class taxpayers, people that are working-class people, right, people making incomes under $50,000 and $60,000, it was the burden of those taxpayers, right, that bailed out the elites. …

It’s all the institutions of the accounting firms, the law firms, the investment banks, the consulting firms, the elite of the elite, the educated elite, they understood what they were getting into, forcibly took all the benefits from it and then look to the government, went hat in hand to the government to be bailed out. And they’ve never been held accountable today. Trust me — they are going to be held accountable.” (This Is How Steve Bannon Sees The Entire World, Buzzfeed News)

Repeat: “They are going to be held accountable.”

Bravo! He wants to lock them up. He wants the bankers to be held accountable and locked up! Who doesn’t want that? Every working slob in America wants that. This is why Bannon has attracted such a loyal following; it’s because his analysis of the financial crisis and its aftermath are “dead on”. The American people know they were ripped off, know that Wall Street is infested with crooks and parasites, and know that the country is governed by a corrupt and unaccountable oligarchy of racketeers.

Bannon has tapped into powerful feelings of frustration and rage, and he’s built a thriving movement on top of them. But where’s the beef? His economic policy just doesn’t deliver the goods. Bannon is talking the talk, but he’s not walking the walk.

The tax cuts don’t deliver for working people and neither does deregulation. So what about the third part of Trump’s economic plan, the fiscal stimulus component?

Bannon says he’s the driving force behind the $1 trillion infrastructure development program. Unfortunately, the program is little more than a scam. Let me explain:

Typically, when people think about fiscal stimulus, they imagine expensive Keynesian “shovel ready” infrastructure projects with lots of well-paid government workers building bridges, roads, rapid transit systems and even schools. That’s not what this is. According to economist Jared Bernstein:

“Instead of just allocating the needed resources as in the traditional approach, they propose to “offer some $137 billion in tax breaks to private investors who want to finance toll roads, toll bridges, or other projects that generate their own revenue streams.”

Since the plan depends on private investors, it can only fund projects that spin off user fees and are profitable. Rural roads, water systems, and public schools don’t fall into that category. Neither does public transit, which fails on the profitable criterion (it depends on public subsidies.” (Trump’s misguided flirtation with Keynesianism, Politico)

This isn’t going to work. It’s completely self defeating. This is just more of the same, more handouts to big business. The whole point of fiscal stimulus is to get money in the hands of the people who will spend it fast, rev up the economy, boost growth, generate more demand and get the economy out of its eight-year-long funk. The rebuilding of infrastructure is secondary, in fact, it doesn’t even matter. What matters is getting money circulating in the perennially-moribund economy. Caspice?

Here’s more on the Trump infrastructure boondoggle from an article in the Washington Post:

“Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors. The Trump plan doesn’t directly fund new roads, bridges, water systems or airports, as did Hillary Clinton’s 2016 infrastructure proposal. Instead, Trump’s plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects. … There’s no requirement that the tax breaks be used for … expanded construction efforts; they could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects…

Second, as a result of the above, Trump’s plan isn’t really a jobs plan, either. Because the plan subsidizes investors, not projects; because it funds tax breaks, not bridges; because there’s no requirement that the projects be otherwise unfunded, there is simply no guarantee that the plan will produce any net new hiring. …

Buried inside the plan will be provisions to weaken prevailing wage protections on construction projects, undermining unions and ultimately eroding workers’ earnings. Environmental rules are almost certain to be gutted in the name of accelerating projects.” (Trump’s big infrastructure plan? It’s a trap. Washington Post)

These so called “public-private partnerships” are just another way for big business to suck money out of the government. They don’t help the economy, not really, and they don’t help workers either. If Bannon is serious about building his coalition on the back of a robust economy, there’s an easier way to do it. First get rid of the corporate ideologues and supply side radicals whose theories never work. Then hire a team of reputable economists who have first-hand experience implementing thorny stimulus programs of this magnitude. (Joseph Stiglitz, James Galbraith, Dean Baker, Michael Hudson, Jack Rasmus)

Then start with the low-hanging fruit, that is, put money into already-running programs that will produce immediate results. For example, in James Galbraith’s epic article “No Return to Normal” the economist recommends increasing Social Security payments. Think about that. It’s a complete no-brainer. The people who live on Social Security spend every dime they get every month, which means that — if their payments go up by, let’s say, $200 or more per month– then all that dough goes straight into the economy which is what fiscal stimulus is all about. Also, increase food stamp funding, lower the Medicare age of eligibility, and rehire a portion of the 500,000 federal workers who lost their jobs in the Crash of ’08. These policies will put money into the economy immediately, boosting growth, increasing wages, and strengthening the prospects for whatever political party happens to be in office.

The point is, fiscal stimulus doesn’t have to be a boondoggle and it doesn’t require “shovel ready” jobs. All that’s needed is a competent team of economic advisors who know what the hell they’re doing and the political will to get the job done. Trump’s economic plan doesn’t do that, all it does is slightly improve GDP while trillions of dollars are transferred to the bank accounts of behemoth corporations and Wall Street cronies.

If Bannon is serious about fixing the economy and rebuilding the Republican party, my advice to him would be: Give Galbraith a call.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

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We await the crisis. It could be economic. It could be a terrorist attack within the United States. It could be widespread devastation caused by global warming. It could be nationwide unrest as the death spiral of the American empire intensifies. It could be another defeat in our endless and futile wars. The crisis is coming. And when it arrives it will be seized upon by the corporate state, nominally led by a clueless real estate developer, to impose martial law and formalize the end of American democracy.

When we look back on this sad, pathetic period in American history we will ask the questions all who have slid into despotism ask. Why were we asleep? How did we allow this to happen? Why didn’t we see it coming? Why didn’t we resist?

Why did we allow the corporate state to strip away the rights of poor people of color and force them to live in terror in mini-police states? Why did we build the world’s largest system of mass incarceration? Did we not see that the rest of us would be next? Why did we agree that those defined by the state as terrorists could not only be deprived of their rights but be assassinated? Did we think the state would restrict itself to persecuting and murdering Muslims? Why did we remain silent as the state arrogated to itself the right to detain and prosecute people not for what they had done, or even for what they were planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deemed seditious? Why did we stand by and permit the state to torture? Did we not see that once rights became privileges the state would one day revoke them?

The failure of our capitalist democracy was collective. It was bred by ignorance, indifference, racism, bigotry and the seduction of mass propaganda. It was bred by elites, especially in the press, the courts and academia, who chose careerism over moral and intellectual courage. Our rights as citizens were taken from us one by one. There was hardly a word of protest.

Where were the lawyers, judges, law professors and law school deans who should have ferociously defended our rights to privacy, due process and habeas corpus? Why didn’t they challenge Barack Obama’s signing into law Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act? Section 1021 overturns the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibited the military from acting as a domestic police force. The section also permits the military to carry out extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers.

Why didn’t the legal profession fight against the Obama administration’s misinterpretation of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Act as giving the executive branch the right to order the assassination of U.S. citizens? How did lawyers and judges allow the misuse of the Espionage Act to target and imprison whistleblowers? How did they permit the Supreme Court to define unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech? Why did they allow those branded as terrorists by the state, and allow poor people of color, to be locked for years in solitary confinement or special detention centers without fair trials? Why were they silent as the state built “black sites” around the globe, including in Chicago, to torture? Why did they permit the state to impose special administrative measures, known as SAMs, to prevent or severely restrict prisoners’ communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jails, crippling any possibility of an adequate defense? Did they not know where the erosion of the legal system would lead?

And where were all the economists pointing out the absurdity of the neoliberal ideology that told us that human society should be governed by the dictates of the market—that is, until the market collapsed in an orgy of fraud and corruption and needed the government to bail it out? Why did the political scientists chase after “value-free” data, carry out quantitative projects and seek an unachievable scientific clarity? Why didn’t they and others warn us about the dire consequences of eroding democratic institutions? Why did they stand mute as money replaced the vote and lobbyists authored our laws? Where were they when constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations were criminalized? Why didn’t they protest when dissidents, even those who broke no laws, were stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process? Why did they continue to speak and write as if the fiction of our democracy was real? Why didn’t they illuminate our constitutional crisis? Why did those in academia commit intellectual treason? They traded their intellectual integrity and autonomy for tenure, publishing contracts, lecture fees, research grants and coveted deanships or college presidencies.

Why did the press render the poor and the working poor invisible? Why did it walk away from its role as the investigator of corruption and abuse of power? Why did it become a courtier to the elites? Why did it measure the success of its broadcasts and publications solely by the profits produced? Why did it refuse to give a platform to critics of corporate capitalism and imperial war? Why did it serve as an echo chamber for the arms industry and Wall Street? Why did it hide behind the fiction of neutrality and objectivity? Why did it debase reporting to quoting establishment experts—most of whom lied—in order to stay within the narrow confines of opinion sanctioned by the power elites? Why did the press obscure the truth?

Where were the great moral and religious truth tellers? Why did they use the language of identity politics as a substitute for the language of social justice? Why did they refuse to condemn as heretics those on the Christian right, which fused the symbols of the state with those of the Christian religion? Why did they collaborate with the evil of corporate capitalism? Why did they retreat into churches and synagogues, establishing exclusive social clubs, rather than fight the injustice outside their doors? Why did they abandon the poor? Why did they replace prophetic demands for justice with cloying political correctness and personal piety?

The desiccation of our liberal institutions ensured the demise of our capitalist democracy. History has amply demonstrated what was to come next. The rot and political paralysis vomited up a con artist as president along with an array of half-wits, criminals and racist ideologues. They will manufacture scapegoats as their gross ineptitude and unachievable promises are exposed. They will fan the flames of white supremacy and racial and religious bigotry. They will use all the tools of legal and physical control handed to them by our system of “inverted totalitarianism” to crush even the most tepid forms of dissent.

The last constraints will be removed by a crisis. The crisis will be used to create a climate of fear. The pretense of democracy will end.

“A fascism of the future—an emergency response to some still unimagined crisis—need not resemble classical fascism perfectly in its outward signs and symbols,” Robert Paxtonwrites in “The Anatomy of Fascism.” “Some future movement that would ‘give up free institutions’ in order to perform the same functions of mass mobilization for the reunification, purification, and regeneration of some troubled group would undoubtedly call itself something else and draw on fresh symbols. That would not make it any less dangerous.”

Our ruling mafia will use the crisis much as the Nazis did in 1933 when the Reichstag was burned. It will publish its own version of the “Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State.” The U.S. Constitution will be in effect suspended. Personal freedom, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to organize and freedom of assembly, will be abolished. Privacy will be formally eradicated. Search warrants will be unnecessary. America’s emergency decrees will cement into place what largely exists now. When they come, the loss of freedoms will be openly acknowledged and made permanent.

Anyone who is not white or “loyal” will be attacked, first verbally and then physically. Everyone will be constantly watched. The prisons will swell. Militarized police will no longer be confined to operating in marginal communities. Lethal, indiscriminant force by the state will be common. The courts will condemn with little or no evidence. The press will utterly unplug itself from reality and speak to us as if we lived in a functioning democracy.  Academics will burrow deeper into their holes of obtuse jargon and quantitative irrelevance. The last remnants of our labor unions will be crushed. Religious institutions, as silent about the evils of corporate capitalism as Goldman Sachs, will take the safe route of spirituality and piety rather than social justice. The lawyers, courts and law schools will serve the law even when the law overturns our constitutional rights by judicial fiat and is a tool of naked repression. Hollywood and the rest of mass entertainment will churn out the usual tawdry fare of sexually explicit and violence-drenched spectacles. The military “virtues” of hypermasculinity and patriarchy will be celebrated.

There will be rebels. They will live in the shadows. They will be the renegade painters, sculptors, poets, writers, journalists, musicians, actors, dancers, organizers, activists, mystics, intellectuals and other outcasts who are willing to accept personal sacrifice. They will not surrender their integrity, creativity, independence and finally their souls. They will speak the truth. The state will have little tolerance of them. They will be poor. The wider society will be conditioned by mass propaganda to write them off as parasites or traitors.

They will keep alive what is left of dignity and freedom. Perhaps one day they will rise up and triumph. But one does not live in poverty and on the margins of society because of the certainty of success. One lives like that because to collaborate with radical evil is to betray all that is good and beautiful. It is to become a captive. It is to give up the moral autonomy that makes us human. The rebels will be our hope.

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The Washington Post(11/24/16) last week published a front-page blockbuster that quickly went viral: Russia-promoted “fake news” had infiltrated the newsfeeds of 213 million Americans during the election, muddying the waters in a disinformation scheme to benefit Donald Trump. Craig Timberg’s story was based on a “report” from an anonymous group (or simply a person, it’s unclear) calling itself PropOrNot that blacklisted over 200 websites as agents or assets of the Russian state.

The obvious implication was that an elaborate Russian psyop had fooled the public into voting for Trump based on a torrent of misleading and false information posing as news. Everyone from Bloomberg’Sahil Kupar to CNN’s to Robert Reich to Anne Navarro to MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid tweeted out the story in breathless tones. Center for American Progress and Clinton advocate Neera Tanden even did her best Ron Paul YouTube commenter impression, exclaiming, “Wake up people.”

But the story didn’t stand up to the most basic scrutiny. Follow-up reporting cast major doubt on the Washington Post’s core claims and underlying logic, the two primary complaints being 1) the “research group” responsible for the meat of the story, PropOrNot, is an anonymous group of partisans (if more than one person is involved) who tweet like high schoolers, and 2) the list of supposed Russian media assets, because its criteria for Russian “fake news” encompasses “useful idiots,” includes entirely well-within-the-mainstream progressive and libertarian websites such as Truth-OutConsortium News,TruthDig and Antiwar.com (several of whom are now considering lawsuitsagainst PropOrNot for libel).

PropOrNot says their criteria for “Russian propaganda” is “behavioral” and “motivation-agnostic,” so even those who publish views that simply coincide with the Russian government’s, regardless of intent or actual links to Russia, are per se Kremlin assets—an absurd metric that casts a net so wide as to render the concept meaningless.

Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton of The Intercept (11/26/16) called PropOrNot “amateur peddlers of primitive, shallow propagandistic clichés” who were “engaging in extremely dubious McCarthyite tactics about a wide range of critics and dissenters.” Fortune magazine’s Matthew Ingram  (11/25/16) insisted the report had the “beginnings of a conspiracy theory, rather than a scientific analysis,” while AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal (11/26/16) lamented that “insiders have latched onto a McCarthyite campaign that calls for government investigations of a wide array of alternative media outlets.”

As Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone (11/28/16):

The vast majority of reporters would have needed to see something a lot more concrete than a half-assed theoretical paper from such a dicey source before denouncing 200 news organizations as traitors.

Almost everyone outside of  the Washington Post who critically examined the list concluded it was at best shoddy and ill-considered, and at worst a deliberate attempt to encourage a chilling effect on Russia-related reporting. That a group of Cold Warrior hacks would publish such a blacklist is not a surprise; that one of the most established names in American news would uncritically parrot it was. Its reporting, writing-up and referencing is a prime example of how fake real news on real fake news spreads without question.

USA Today (11/25/16), Gizmodo (11/25/16), PBS (11/25/16), The Daily Beast (11/25/16), Slate (11/25/16), AP (11/25/16The Verge (11/25/16) and NPR (11/25/16) all uncritically wrote up the Post’s most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback. Gizmodo was so giddy its original headline had to be changed from “Research Confirms That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News” to “Research Suggests That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News,” presumably after some polite commenters pointed out that the research “confirmed” nothing of the sort.

“Um ‘stories planted or promoted by the Russian disinformation campaign were viewed 213 million times,’” New York Times deputy Washington editor Jonathan Weisman (11/24/16) tweeted out to the tune of 2,800 retweets. But the report didn’t show this at all. There was no methodology provided, nor was there any consideration by Weisman that that “213 million” figure of Russian “fake news” included, for example, the third-most popular news site in the United States, the Drudge Report.

Drudge not only has no funding or backing from Putin, but predates his administration by several years. But because Drudge occasionally publishes stories that make the US look bad in relation to Russia, and because PropOrNot’s “useful idiots” criterion is “motivation-agnostic,” its entire footprint has become a “Russian disinformation campaign.” Did Weisman know this? Did he care?

Maddow: ‘It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign’

(MaddowBlog, 11/28/16)

As reports debunking or discrediting The List came out, the story continued to spread. Joy Ann Reid (Daily Beast11/27/16) alluded to the PropOrNot story to bolster her claim that there was an “alarming consensus of experts” that Russia interfered in the US election by “pumping of fake news and propaganda into the country’s digital bloodstream,” despite no such consensus existing. On Monday, Business Insider (11/28/16) insisted that PropOrNot’s “methods uncover some connections that merit consideration,” while citing only two examples and ignoring all of the major objections advanced by Greenwald, Taibbi et al. Rachel Maddow’s popular blog (MSNBC, 11/28/16) added another breathless write-up hours later, repeating the catchy talking point that “it was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign.”

Despite respected media critics taking the report to task, the Post’s spurious claims are being cemented as conventional wisdom, all the while the writer of the story and his editor refuse to answer direct criticism or reveal who this anonymous person or persons is. What are their motives? Who are their funders? Why is “useful idiot” being propped up by a major news outlet as a useful distinction? Why weren’t those on the blacklist asked to comment? Despite numerous inquiries by The InterceptRolling Stone and The Nation (11/28/16), all these questions remain unanswered.

One would think reports on “fake news” would themselves be held to the highest possible editorial standards, if not out of some instinctual desire to avoid high doses of irony and cognitive dissonance, at least to shield against charges of blatant hypocrisy. But increasingly, as the moral panic surrounding “fake news” reaches fever pitch, the standards of skepticism and sourcing employed by some of our most trusted news sources have inversely sunk to tabloid levels.

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.

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Under the cover of battling “fake news,” the mainstream U.S. news media and officialdom are taking aim at journalistic skepticism when it is directed at the pronouncements of the U.S. government and its allies.

One might have hoped that the alarm about “fake news” would remind major U.S. news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, about the value of journalistic skepticism. However, instead, it seems to have done the opposite.

Author George Orwell.

Author George Orwell.

The idea of questioning the claims by the West’s officialdom now brings calumny down upon the heads of those who dare do it. “Truth” is being redefined as whatever the U.S. government, NATO and other Western interests say is true. Disagreement with the West’s “group thinks,” no matter how fact-based the dissent is, becomes “fake news.”

So, we have the case of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius having a starry-eyed interview with Richard Stengel, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, the principal arm of U.S. government propaganda.

Entitled “The truth is losing,” the column laments that the official narratives as deigned by the State Department and The Washington Post are losing traction with Americans and the world’s public.

Stengel, a former managing editor at Time magazine, seems to take aim at Russia’s RT network’s slogan, “question more,” as some sinister message seeking to inject cynicism toward the West’s official narratives.

“They’re not trying to say that their version of events is the true one. They’re saying: ‘Everybody’s lying! Nobody’s telling you the truth!’,” Stengel said. “They don’t have a candidate, per se. But they want to undermine faith in democracy, faith in the West.”

No Evidence

Typical of these recent mainstream tirades about this vague Russian menace, Ignatius’s column doesn’t provide any specifics regarding how RT and other Russian media outlets are carrying out this assault on the purity of Western information. It’s enough to just toss around pejorative phrases supporting an Orwellian solution, which is to stamp out or marginalize alternative and independent journalism, not just Russian.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. (Photo credit: Aude)

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. (Photo credit: Aude)

Ignatius writes: “Stengel poses an urgent question for journalists, technologists and, more broadly, everyone living in free societies or aspiring to do so. How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

“Stengel argues that the U.S. government should sometimes protect citizens by exposing ‘weaponized information, false information’ that is polluting the ecosystem. But ultimately, the defense of truth must be independent of a government that many people mistrust. ‘There are inherent dangers in having the government be the verifier of last resort,’ he argues.”

By the way, Stengel is not the fount of truth-telling, as he and Ignatius like to pretend. Early in the Ukraine crisis, Stengel delivered a rant against RT that was full of inaccuracies or what you might call “fake news.”

Yet, what Stengel and various mainstream media outlets appear to be arguing for is the creation of a “Ministry of Truth” managed by mainstream U.S. media outlets and enforced by Google, Facebook and other technology platforms.

In other words, once these supposedly responsible outlets decide what the “truth” is, then questioning that narrative will earn you “virtual” expulsion from the marketplace of ideas, possibly eliminated via algorithms of major search engines or marked with a special app to warn readers not to believe what you say, a sort of yellow Star of David for the Internet age.

And then there’s the possibility of more direct (and old-fashioned) government enforcement by launching FBI investigations into media outlets that won’t toe the official line. (All of these “solutions” have been advocated in recent weeks.)

On the other hand, if you do toe the official line that comes from Stengel’s public diplomacy shop, you stand to get rewarded with government financial support. Stengel disclosed in his interview with Ignatius that his office funds “investigative” journalism projects.

“How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth?” Ignatius asks, adding: “Stengel has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers.”

Buying Propaganda

After reading Ignatius’s column on Wednesday, I submitted a question to the State Department asking for details on this “journalism” and “truth-telling” funding that is coming from the U.S. government’s top propaganda shop, but I have not received an answer.

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

But we do know that the U.S. government has been investing tens of millions of dollars in various media programs to undergird Washington’s desired narratives.

For instance, in May 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”

USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the 2014 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian and U.S.-backed regime, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” skills that would have been quite helpful to the coup plotters.

USAID, working with currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society, also has funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.

Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what appeared to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.

Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Higgins is now associated with the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank which is partially funded by the U.S. State Department.

Beyond funding from the State Department and USAID, tens of millions of dollars more are flowing through the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was started in 1983 under the guiding hand of CIA Director William Casey.

NED became a slush fund to help finance what became known, inside the Reagan administration, as “perception management,” the art of controlling the perceptions of domestic and foreign populations.

The Emergence of StratCom

Last year, as the New Cold War heated up, NATO created the Strategic Communications Command in Latvia to further wage information warfare against Russia and individuals who were contesting the West’s narratives.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

As veteran war correspondent Don North reported in 2015 regarding this new StratCom, “the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’

“This attitude has led to treating psy-ops — manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions — as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.”

Now, the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress are moving to up the ante, passing new legislation to escalate “information warfare.”

On Wednesday, U.S. congressional negotiators approved $160 million to combat what they deem foreign propaganda and the alleged Russian campaign to spread “fake news.” The measure is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and gives the State Department the power to identify “propaganda” and counter it.

This bipartisan stampede into an Orwellian future for the American people and the world’s population follows a shoddily sourced Washington Post article that relied on a new anonymous group that identified some 200 Internet sites, including some of the most prominent American independent sources of news, as part of a Russian propaganda network.

Typical of this new McCarthyism, the report lacked evidence that any such network actually exists but instead targeted cases where American journalists expressed skepticism about claims from Western officialdom.

Consortiumnews.com was included on the list apparently because we have critically analyzed some of the claims and allegations regarding the crises in Syria and Ukraine, rather than simply accept the dominant Western “group thinks.”

Also on the “black list” were such quality journalism sites as Counterpunch, Truth-out, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and ZeroHedge along with many political sites ranging across the ideological spectrum.

The Fake-News Express

Normally such an unfounded conspiracy theory would be ignored, but – because The Washington Post treated the incredible allegations as credible – the smear has taken on a life of its own, reprised by cable networks and republished by major newspapers.

MSNBC's "Hardball" host Chris Matthews

MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews

But the unpleasant truth is that the mainstream U.S. news media is now engaged in its own fake-news campaign about “fake news.” It’s publishing bogus claims invented by a disreputable and secretive outfit that just recently popped up on the Internet. If that isn’t “fake news,” I don’t know what is.

Yet, despite the Post’s clear violations of normal journalistic practices, surely, no one there will pay a price, anymore than there was accountability for the Post reporting as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003. Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor most responsible for that catastrophic “group think,” is still in the same job today.

Two nights ago, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews featured the spurious Washington Post article in a segment that – like similar rehashes –didn’t bother to get responses from the journalists being slandered.

I found that ironic since Matthews repeatedly scolds journalists for their failure to look skeptically at U.S. government claims about Iraq possessing WMD as justification for the disastrous Iraq War. However, now Matthews joins in smearing journalists who have applied skepticism to U.S. and Western propaganda claims about Syria and/or Ukraine.

While the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament begin to take action to shut down or isolate dissident sources of information – all in the name of “democracy” – a potentially greater danger is that mainstream U.S. news outlets are already teaming up with technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to impose their own determinations about “truth” on the Internet.

Or, as Ignatius puts it in his column reflecting Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Stengel’s thinking, “The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms.

“‘They see this information war as an existential threat,’ says Stengel. … The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” [presumably a reference to algorithms] can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a ‘global ombudsman for information.’”

Ministry of Truth

An organization of some 30 mainstream media companies already exists, including not only The Washington Post and The New York Times but also the Atlantic Council-connected Bellingcat, as the emerging arbiters – or ombudsmen – for truth, something Orwell described less flatteringly as a “Ministry of Truth.”

Big Brother poster illustrating George Orwell's novel about modern propaganda, 1984.

Big Brother poster illustrating George Orwell’s novel about modern propaganda, 1984.

The New York Times has even editorialized in support of Internet censorship, using the hysteria over “fake news” to justify the marginalization or disappearance of dissident news sites.

It now appears that this 1984-ish “MiniTrue” will especially target journalistic skepticism when applied to U.S. government and mainstream media “group thinks.”

Yet, in my four decades-plus in professional journalism, I always understood that skepticism was a universal journalistic principle, one that should be applied in all cases, whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House or whether some foreign leader is popular or demonized.

As we have seen in recent years, failure to ask tough questions and to challenge dubious claims from government officials and mainstream media outlets can get lots of people killed, both U.S. soldiers and citizens of countries invaded or destabilized by outsiders.

To show skepticism is not the threat to democracy that Undersecretary Stengel and columnist Ignatius appear to think it is.

Whether you like or dislike RT’s broadcasts – or more likely have never seen one – a journalist really can’t question its slogan: “question more.” Questioning is the essence of journalism and, for that matter, democracy.

[In protest of the Post’s smearing of independent journalists, RootsAction has undertaken a petition drive, which can be found here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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In the weeks since the November 8 US presidential election, the dim outlines of what a Trump presidency might look like are beginning to appear. Trump continues to retreat on several fronts from his campaign ‘right populist’ positions, while doubling-down on other radical positions he previously proposed during the campaign. How to make sense of his apparent evolving policy divergence?

One the one hand, Trump appears to moving closer to traditional Republican party elite positions on big reductions of taxes on corporate-investor elites and on delivering long standing elite demands to deregulate business; at the same time he appears to be moderating his position with regard to that third top priority of the US neoliberal elite—i.e. free trade—as he back-peddles rapidly from his campaign attacks on trade and free trade agreements.

At the same time Trump appears to be doubling down on his campaign’s radical social policy issues like immigration (promising to immediately deport or jail 3 million), taking a harder line position on law and order and civil liberties (declaring those who burn the flag should lose their US citizenship or go to jail), reaffirming his intent to privatize education services (by appointing a hard liner as Education Secretary who strongly favors charter schools and school vouchers), attacking environmental programs and protestors (calling for restoration of the Keystone pipeline), while showing early signs of moving closer toward Congressional Republican elite leaders, like Paul Ryan, and Ryan’s radical proposal to replace current Medicare with a federal ‘voucher’ system that would freeze the amount Medicare would pay doctors and hospitals as health care costs continued to escalate.

Areas Still Vague: Infrastructure Spending and Foreign Policy

Less clear than Trump’s above policy bifurcation are what policy positions he will take on fiscal and monetary matters.

Trump campaign promises of more government spending on ‘infrastructure’ still remain too vague. Will that mean more oil and gas pipelines and coal mining? More tax cuts to construction companies? More direct subsidies to businesses? And how much ‘spending’ is involved? Early indications are the infrastructure program may be mostly tax credits for businesses—and in addition to his massive corporate-investor tax cuts also planned.

Trump in the past has called for $1 trillion. (Clinton had called for a $250 billion program over five years. That $50 billion was just about the amount the US now provides in subsidies to agribusiness). And so far as infrastructure spending’s impact on the US economy, $50 billion a year is insignificant. $1 trillion and $100 billion a year over ten years, Trump’s campaign proposal, might have some effect on US GDP. But GDP growth does not necessarily translate into benefits in income to all—as the last eight years has clearly shown as 97% of all GDP-income gains under Obama have gone to the wealthiest 1% households. Nor will infrastructure spending likely translate much into job creation—and could especially result in little positive impact on jobs if infrastructure spending is composed mostly of tax cuts, business subsidies, and high capital-intensive projects that may take years to realize. It is highly unlikely Trump is talking about a 1930s-like ‘public works program’. It’s more likely to be the federal government writing checks to big construction companies, pocketing nice profit margins in the process.

Trump’s influence over monetary policy in general—and interest rates in particular—will be even more minimal. The US elites will strongly oppose any Trump attempts, as promised during the election, to ‘reform’ the US central bank, the Federal Reserve. And the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike cat is already out of the bag. Long term rates have been already rising rapidly and will continue to do so, as will the US dollar in turn, as the two—rates and the dollar—are highly correlated. And the Federal Reserve is clearly on track to raise short term rates soon.

The question is whether the rise in interest rates—short and long term–will discourage investment, thus hiring and job creation, in those industries not directly affected by infrastructure spending? Will the negative effect of rate rises on investment and job creation be greater than the positive effect of infrastructure spending? Will those negative effects emerge sooner than the positive from infrastructure investment? And will the rising dollar associated with the rate hikes further reduce manufacturing exports and jobs in that sector? The dollar rise has already stagnated manufacturing output and employment. Further increases will almost certainly result in a contraction of manufacturing exports and jobs.

‘Yes’ is probably the answer to all the above, which means Trump job creation net effects during his first two years in office may not materialize. Moderate at best job creation from delayed infrastructure spending could be more than offset by job loss from rising rates and the US dollar.

The other major Trump policy area that still remains vague is foreign policy. It is not clear as yet what Trump’s true positions will be on NATO and China. But the US elite are intent on bringing him around to their positions and will exert extreme pressure on Trump in order to do so. They have already begun to do so. They will not let up on the pressure.

Trump’s intent is to become more militarily aggressive against ISIS in the middle east, and possibly ‘partnering’ with Russia to do so. That latter possibility is currently causing fits with US elites behind the scene. Backing off from NATO military deployment provocations in eastern Europe, the US-NATO current policy, while looking favorably on Europe’s backing off of economic sanctions against Russia, may also become Trump policy.

Trump’s Big Three Cabinet Appointments

Whether that foreign policy redirection occurs under Trump is now playing out in backroom maneuverings within the Trump administration with regard to key Trump cabinet appointments involving departments of State, Defense, and remaining national security positions. The elite want Romney. Populist right forces in the Trump camp do not. And behind the appointment issue is whether a Secretary of State position under Trump becomes a mere figurehead to Trump foreign policy decided in the White House by Trump and his close aides like General Flynn and others.

The US elite want Romney and they want their Secretary of State to have independence. Should Romney get the appointment here, it will signal they have prevailed. The result will be a bifurcation on foreign policy directions in the Trump administration which will ultimately break down at some point.

Obama’s recent ‘tour’ of NATO countries should be viewed as an effort by US elites to try to ensure NATO allies that Trump’s campaign proposals targeting NATO will not be the final position of the Trump regime. The Obama tour was in part at least to hold NATO allies’ hands and ask them to be patient—i.e. the elite will bring Trump around to reality. Be patient. We will eventually ‘tame’ Trump is no doubt the message. After Europe, Obama scurried back to Asia, attending the APEC economic summit, and providing no doubt similar assurances to US allies there that Trump would ‘come to his senses’ as cooler elite heads advised him.

Trump appears to have just appointed General (nicknamed ‘mad dog’) Mattis. Petraeus, a more establishment figure under consideration is out; or maybe Petraeus decided himself that hitching a ride on a Trump administration was not the greatest career restoration move. But the Mattis appointment still leaves the direction of a Trump administration’s policies on NATO, Russia, or Asia up in the air.

The third key cabinet appointment is Secretary of the Treasury. Here Trump’s transition team initially appeared to favor the CEO of the biggest US bank, Chase’s Jaime Dimon. Treasury secretaries in recent decades, under US Neoliberalism since Reagan, have always been heads of some big financial institution. And in recent decades, the Treasury Secretaries have repeatedly been alumni of the big investment bank, Goldman Sachs. And so too is Mnuchin, continuing the trend of the wheeling-dealing ‘shadow banking’ sector still dominating the Treasury.

Together with Wilbur Ross, appointed to Commerce Secretary, also a ‘shadow banker’ and former Private Equity Firm owner, the Mnuchin-Ross team will determine banking and economic policy in the Trump administration. Their initial target will no doubt be dismantling what’s left of the skeleton of the Dodd-Frank banking regulation bill.

Trump ‘Free Trade’ Policy

Trade as a policy has both foreign policy and economic dimensions. The US elite is now facing a major challenge, having temporarily lost the TPP and with the Europe TTIP in trouble, given a year of intense political instability on the horizon in Europe. They will focus on just keeping the prospects alive temporarily. In the meantime, the thrust is to prevent the deterioration of NAFTA, CAFTA, and other bilateral free trade deals signed under Bush and Obama. The objective will be to stop Trump from making any changes in NAFTA in the short term, and ensuring whatever changes after is cosmetic and token in the longer term.

Taming Trump may prove more difficult with regard to Free Trade, however, compared to getting Trump to implement US elite objectives on matters of tax cuts and deregulation. Trump’s positions during the election were strongly anti-Trade. It played a key role in his election victory, and clearly in the key states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. It will be more difficult for him to renege and about-face on the trade issue. Taming Trump will prove more difficult.

But here’s how it nonetheless may develop:

Reversing the worst effects of NAFTA cannot be done in the short term. The elites have many ways to slow and block his efforts. Some token renegotiation of NAFTA will eventually take place, resulting in minor adjustments. In the meantime, however, Trump can gain publicity and placate his base on this issue by achieving ‘victories’ discouraging specific companies to abandon plans to relocate to Mexico or abroad. Recent events involving Ford Autos and the Carrier company are examples of what may be the Trump short term policy direction with regard to trade.

As for other multilateral free trade treaties, Trump has declared he would stop the TPP, Transpacific Partnership Asia-US free trade deal. But that was already dead in Congress. And the US-Europe counterpart to the TPP, the TTIP, is impossible in 2017 with the accelerating upheaval in European politics and coming unraveling of the Eurozone after next week elections in Italy and Austria, and with elections in France, Netherlands and Germany on the agenda in 2017.
What will Trump’s longer term free trade policy look like? It is important to understand that Trump is not against free trade. He opposed multilateral programs, which were at the center of US neoliberal elite objectives.

Trump’s free trade policy will be to negotiate country-by-country free trade deals. Renegotiating free trade will make it appear as if he’s dismantling it. But the process will take a longer time, certainly not in the first year or two. The US elite can probably live with that. Their task in ‘taming Trump’ is to ensure he does not take precipitative action against current free trade deals, that he puts off such action, and settles into a longer term bilateral renegotiating policy. In the meantime, it will be more highly visible personal actions like the Ford and Carrier deals, to make it appear he is doing something on the matter.

What that all means is that except for token company examples like Ford and Carrier, free trade deals will continue. The US elite will get to continue their Neoliberal policy priority of free trade, just in another form that emphasizes slow, token changes to existing agreements and bilateral new free trade agreements. But free trade bilaterally is still free trade. And job losses and wage compression, the two major consequences of free trade deals, will continue. It’s just free trade in another form.

Trump is betting that the lack of job creation, from a retreat from is promises to ‘bring back jobs’ lost to trade, will be offset by job creation from infrastructure spending. Meanwhile, he can and will claim he is saving jobs by talking down Ford, Carrier, and other companies. Alongside this, bilateral free trade deals will go forward.

Massive Tax Cuts and Business Deregulation

The other two major priorities of the US elite are big corporate-investor tax cuts and deregulation. Here Trump has signaled he is in full agreement with the elite. No need to ‘tame’ Trump here. These policies will be forthcoming almost immediately in the new Trump regime.

Trump has proposed to cut corporate taxes even more than the Ryan-Republican Party faction in Congress. From the current 35% corporate rate, Trump proposed reducing it to 15% while Ryan and friends to 20%. Both are in agreement to reduce the top income tax rate for their wealthy friends, from current 39.6% to 33%. The Capital gains tax, now 23.8%, is scheduled for a cut to 20% by Trump and 16.5% by Congress. Both Trump and Ryan plan to abolish the Estate Tax, reducing taxation on estates worth $7 million (now the threshold) altogether. Both are strong proponents of allowing big US multinational corporations in Tech, Pharma, Banking and others to ‘repatriate’ $2.5 trillion in taxes they have been hoarding in profits offshore to avoid paying the US 35% rate to a low of 10%. The 4.8% surtax on the wealthiest to help fund Obamacare will also certainly disappear. Also notable is that net taxes on the middle class will rise under both plans, and the countless loopholes for investors will continue.

It should be noted that this massive tax cut package amounts to $4.3 trillion, according to Trump. But according to the Tax Policy Center research group, it will reduce federal revenues by $6.2 trillion. The wealthiest 1% would realize a 13.5% cut in their taxes, while the rest of all households would have a 4.1 % rise in their taxes.

This $4.3 or $6.2 trillion follows a $5 trillion tax cut agreed to by Obama, Democrats and Republicans in Congress that took place in early 2013 as part of the then phony ‘fiscal cliff’ crisis. That followed a $800 billion tax cut pushed by Obama at the end of 2010, in which Obama continued the previous Bush tax cuts for another two years and then some. That followed a preceding $300 billion tax cut in Obama’s 2009 initial recovery program. And all that came after George W. Bush’s estimated $3.4 trillion in tax cuts in 2001-04, 80% of which accrued the wealthiest households and businesses. So under Bush-Obama, taxes for the rich and their corporations totaled approximately $9.5 trillion, and now Trump-Ryan propose another $4.3-$6.2 trillion minimum, running the total up to more than $15 trillion.

And corporations and their lobbyists won’t wait for the tax cut legislation. They are already pressing for a Trump reversal of Obama administration measures over the past year to slow the rampant ‘tax inversion’ scams by big multinational tech, pharma and banks, that have been avoiding taxes by shifting their company headquarters offshore on paper. Corporations have avoided paying hundreds of billions of dollars in US taxes in just the past three years by means of ‘inversion’ scams. Trump doesn’t have to wait for Congress, for him to open the floodgates allowing massive corporate tax avoidance through unlimited ‘inversions’ once again. Big business lobbying arms, like the Business Roundtable, American Bankers Association, and National Association of Manufacturers are reportedly already demanding Trump lift all restrictions on ‘inversions’.

Trump and Ryan-Congress are no less in synch on the third policy priority of US elites—deregulation. Like corporate-investor tax cutting, Trump and the US elite are on the same page when it comes to deregulation. High on this agenda will be slicing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Trump will not need to repeal it and won’t. It will be given a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and allowed to collapse. Already in big trouble as a program unable to control health insurance costs or prescription drug price gouging, ACA provisions like mandatory insurance purchases and the 4.8% surtax on the wealth to help pay for the subsidies are likely to go quickly. A similar major deregulation will be the Dodd-Frank banking regulation act, which has already had much of its provisions defanged since its passage in 2010. A main target will be the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

To gain public awareness of his pledges to deregulate, Trump will immediately in 2017 repeal, however, as many Obama Executive Orders as possible. Receiving the brunt of this will be immigration provisions, like the Dream Act, and numerous Environmental regulations. Trump’s EPA head will no doubt immediately reverse the regulations involving the industrial plant pollution proposals not yet or just recently proposed. In Labor matters, overtime pay rules and private pension rules are targets as well. Trump will immediately in 2017 reverse all the regulations he possibly can by Executive Order. That includes the Dream Act for youth of immigrants in the first 100 days, and new Executive Orders giving new powers of detention and arrest to border and police officials. Efforts by cities and universities to provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants will result in immediate harsh financial and other actions against those same. Recent minimal rulings by the National Labor Relations Board favoring union workers and institutions will be quickly reversed as well.

The US elite, in Congress and beyond, will tolerate much of this deregulation, as well as a significant assault on immigration, law and order, policy repression of ethnic communities, deportations, limits on civil liberties, cuts in social programs, and privatization proposals across the board involving education, Medicare, and healthcare. Their priority is passage of policy in the areas of tax cuts, deregulation, and delaying any potential actions that might endanger existing free trade agreements.

Getting Trump to back off his campaign promises—i.e. his right wing populism—in areas of foreign policy and trade redirection are also elite priority issues. Trump has never needed ‘taming’ on tax and deregulation issues. And he will be allowed to proceed with elements of his right wing populism that involve attacks on environment, law and order, civil liberties, and immigration—so long as the latter involves low paid undocumented immigration from Latin America and does not interfere with the 500,000 high paid tech jobs legally given to Chinese and Indian immigrants on H1-B and L-1/2 visas. And so long as he doesn’t proceed so fast that it precipitates excessive social unrest. Go slow, he will be told. Nothing too extreme. And ensure that taxes, deregulation, trade and foreign policy are priority and are concluded first.

The US elite will abandon Trump if he doesn’t play ball on taxes, deregulation, going slow on Trade, and if he upsets long-standing foreign policy directions too radically. They will let him run amuck on issues of immigration, civil liberties, law and order, environment, and privatizing of social programs. So how might that elite ‘tame trump’ if and when necessary? The preparations just in case are already underway. They include the following:

How To Tame Trump

There are at least six ways by which they can, and are now preparing, to control him.

1. Trump Business Conflicts

Trump has 111 businesses in 18 countries. It is not possible to even put these in a blind trust, as previous presidents have done with their business interests. The elite will gather all the incriminating evidence they can to reveal his conflicts of interests, if necessary, at some point. They will threaten Trump quietly first to reveal and proceed against him and, if he doesn’t respond in their favor on some issue or policy, start the process of undermining his reputation and credibility in the media and with public opinion. Keeping the heat on will be mainstream media like the New York Times, Washington Post, and major broadcast TV sources. It won’t be difficult to dig up the dirt.

2. Trump Foundation

Like the Clinton Foundation, as with foundations of many of the super wealthy, the Trump Foundation is a source of potential major scandal. Incriminating or even insinuating investigations will be undertaken quietly, and then publicly if necessary.

3. Nepotism Charges

Trump has already shown a preference for family member involvement in his administration. That opens him to criticism of nepotism. That becomes the nexus for alleging Trump using the presidency to enrich himself indirectly through his family connections.

4. Trump’s Tax Returns

Trump may not have released his returns during the campaign, and probably for good reason. Few in the wheeling-dealing commercial real estate sector are squeaky clean when it comes to tax avoidance and even fraud. The worse of his tax matters will be quietly passed on to the New York Times and other media. They can be revealed at the appropriate juncture, if Trump doesn’t ‘play ball’ with the elite on matter of policy the latter consider strategic.

5. Attacks on Trump Appointees and Family

Trump can be damaged and undermined by attacking his appointments and family members. Favorite targets will be radicals like Steve Bannon of Breitbart who has been brought into the Trump White House as advisor. Trump’s son-in-law may prove another favorite target. So might even be his appointed national security adviser, General Flynn. Already major feature pieces on Bannon have appeared in the Times and media. The media continues to keep alive Flynn’s alleged pro-Russia views and contacts. Meanwhile, talking heads experts continue to appear on the mainstream press TV shows like CNN, MSNBC, CBS and others continuing the press the election themes of Trump’s character limits and dangerous personal traits. The elite will keep these issues of Trump judgment and volatility before the public, until Trump comes around and adopts US elite policies, especially on foreign policy, trade, and other matters.

6. Violations of Law

Trump’s proclivity to engage in tweets may yet get him in serious legal trouble. So too may any precipitous incitement of radical elements and actions that result from his public statements. Or any premature over-reaching Executive Orders.

From ‘Faux Left’ to ‘Faux Right’ Populism

In 2008 Barack Obama ran for president based on a program that in some ways was clearly populism. Entering the president primary race late, in early 2008, Obama’s advisers vaulted him to the nomination six months later by employing a strategy that consistently was to the left of the other Democrat candidates, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. Obama appeared the popular left candidate. Many voters were sufficiently misled. Immediately after elected, however, Obama proceeded to appoint advisers and cabinet members who were clearly representatives of the banking industry and business interests in general. Neoliberal policies were given a ‘left cover’, as Obama then ruled from the ‘center-right’ on key matters of economic policy of primary interest to the elite—i.e. bailing out the banks, rescuing big businesses from bankruptcy, ensuring the stock and bond markets boomed, pressing for free trade deals, going slow and minimalizing banking regulation, ensuring healthcare reform did not include the ‘public option’ or even consider Medicare expansion, and turning over US jobs and trade policy to figures like Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric. Mortgage companies were given preference over bailing out homeowners facing foreclosure and ‘negative equity’. Latinos were deported in record numbers, students allowed to accumulate more than $1 trillion in debt, job creation involved mostly low paid, contingent service work, pensions were allowed to collapse, senior citizens’ savings evaporate while investors enjoyed eight years of near zero interest rates, and progressive labor legislation was quickly shelved.

What started as a hope of a resurrected left populism quickly and progressively decayed into a comprehensive program that delivered 97% of all income gains to the wealthiest 1% households.

Voters chose a black president in 2008 because they wanted change. They didn’t care about his race. They didn’t get it. In 2016 they now voted again—for change. Those voters did not become racist in the past eight years, even though the candidate they just voted for indicated in many ways he himself was racist and misogynist, to name but a few of his apparent character faults. Those voters who in 2008 chose a ‘left populism’ that turned out to be false, chose in 2016 a ‘right populism’. But what they will get is not populism but another disappointment.

Like the Obama regime, the Trump regime will retreat to a neoliberal US elite regime. It will be a ‘Neoliberalism 2.0’. An evolved new form of Neoliberalism based on the continuation of pro-investor, pro-corporate, pro-wealthy elite economic policies—with an overlay of even more repressive social policies involving immigration, law and order, privatizations, cuts in social programs, more police repressions of ethnic communities, environmental retreat, limits on civil liberties, more insecurity and more fear. This is the new form of Neoliberalism, necessary to continue its economic dimensions by intensifying its forms of social repression and control.

We predict Trump will concede to elite neoliberal policies on Trade and Foreign Policy eventually, as he already is about to do with regard to elite policy preferences on taxation and deregulation. If he does not, elite interests are waiting in the wings, gathering the evidence and ammunition to attack Trump more directly if necessary, should he not comply. So long as he plays ball with them, they’ll just hold their ammunition at the ready. They will lock and load, and cock the hammer, taking aim and give a warning.

Trump will respond. He will come around to their demands. After all, he has more personally to even lose than did Obama. Faux left is replaced by faux right in American politics.

Jack Rasmus is the author of Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy, by Clarity Press, 2016, ‘Looting Greece: An Emerging New Financial Imperialism’, by Clarity Press, October 2016, and the forthcoming ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes’, Clarity Press, March 2017. He blogs at jackrasmus.com. His website is jackrasmusproductions.com. His twitter handle is @drjackrasmus.

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Rosa Parks. In Memoriam: The Civil Rights Movement in the US

December 2nd, 2016 by Global Research

In view of the anniversary of Rosa Park’s 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, we bring to the attention of our readers this article originally published by Global Research in October 2010.

Most historians date the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States to December 1, 1955. That was the day when an unknown seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This brave woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but her lonely act of defiance began a movement that ended legal segregation in America, and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.

Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama to James McCauley, a carpenter, and Leona McCauley, a teacher. At the age of two she moved to her grandparents’ farm in Pine Level, Alabama with her mother and younger brother, Sylvester. At the age of 11 she enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, a private school founded by liberal-minded women from the northern United States. The school’s philosophy of self-worth was consistent with Leona McCauley’s advice to “take advantage of the opportunities, no matter how few they were.”

Rosa Parks Biography Photo Opportunities were few indeed. “Back then,” Mrs. Parks recalled in an interview,

“we didn’t have any civil rights. It was just a matter of survival, of existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.”

In the same interview, she cited her lifelong acquaintance with fear as the reason for her relative fearlessness in deciding to appeal her conviction during the bus boycott. “I didn’t have any special fear,” she said. “It was more of a relief to know that I wasn’t alone.”

After attending Alabama State Teachers College, the young Rosa settled in Montgomery, with her husband, Raymond Parks. The couple joined the local chapter of the NAACP and worked quietly for many years to improve the lot of African-Americans in the segregated south.

Rosa Parks Biography Photo“I worked on numerous cases with the NAACP,” Mrs. Parks recalled,

“but we did not get the publicity. There were cases of flogging, peonage, murder, and rape. We didn’t seem to have too many successes. It was more a matter of trying to challenge the powers that be, and to let it be known that we did not wish to continue being second-class citizens.”

The bus incident led to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, led by the young pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The association called for a boycott of the city-owned bus company. The boycott lasted 382 days and brought Mrs. Parks, Dr. King, and their cause to the attention of the world. A Supreme Court Decision struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Mrs. Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation.

Rosa Parks Biography Photo

In 1957, Mrs. Parks and her husband moved to Detroit, Michigan where Mrs. Parks served on the staff of U.S. Representative John Conyers. The Southern Christian Leadership Council established an annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award in her honor.

Rosa Parks Biography Photo After the death of her husband in 1977, Mrs. Parks founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. The Institute sponsors an annual summer program for teenagers called Pathways to Freedom. The young people tour the country in buses, under adult supervision, learning the history of their country and of the civil rights movement. President Clinton presented Rosa Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. She received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

When asked if she was happy living in retirement, Rosa Parks replied,

“I do the very best I can to look upon life with optimism and hope and looking forward to a better day, but I don’t think there is any such thing as complete happiness. It pains me that there is still a lot of Klan activity and racism. I think when you say you’re happy, you have everything that you need and everything that you want, and nothing more to wish for. I haven’t reached that stage yet.”

Mrs. Parks spent her last years living quietly in Detroit, where she died in 2005 at the age of 92. After her death, her casket was placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol for two days, so the nation could pay its respects to the woman whose courage had changed the lives of so many. She is the only woman and second African American in American history to lie in state at the Capitol, an honor usually reserved for Presidents of the United States.

Seven Reasons Why America’s Corporate Media Is Pro-War

December 2nd, 2016 by Washington's Blog

Why There Is So Much Pro-War Reporting?

American media is always pro-war:

Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam while they were happening, or shortly thereafter? Or even opposed to any two of these seven wars? How about one?

In 1968, six years into the Vietnam War, the Boston Globe (Feb. 18, 1968) surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading U.S. papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out.” Has the phrase “invasion of Vietnam” ever appeared in the U.S. mainstream media?

In 2003, leading cable station MSNBC took the much-admired Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Why?

There are seven reasons that the mainstream media and many of the largest “alternative” media websites are all pro-war.

1. Self-Censorship by Journalists

There is tremendous self-censorship by journalists.

A survey by the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review in 2000 found:

Self-censorship is commonplace in the news media today …. About one-quarter of the local and national journalists say they have purposely avoided newsworthy stories, while nearly as many acknowledge they have softened the tone of stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations. Fully four-in-ten (41%) admit they have engaged in either or both of these practices.

Similarly, a 2003 survey reveals that 35% of reporters and news executives themselves admitted that journalists avoid newsworthy stories if “the story would be embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a news organization’s owners or parent company.”

Several months after 9/11, Dan Rather told the BBC that American reporters were practicing “a form of self-censorship”:

There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around peoples’ necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions…. And again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism.

What we are talking about here – whether one wants to recognise it or not, or call it by its proper name or not – is a form of self-censorship.

Rather said in 2008:

One of the most pernicious ways in which we do this is through self-censorship, which may be the worst censorship of all. We have seen too much self-censorship in the news in recent years, and as I say this please know that I do not except myself from this criticism.

As Mark Twain once said, “We write frankly and freely but then we ‘modify’ before we print.” Why do we modify the free and frank expression of journalistic truth? We do it out of fear: Fear for our jobs. Fear that we’ll catch hell for it. Fear that someone will seek to hang a sign around our neck that says, in essence, “Unpatriotic.”

We modify with euphemisms such as “collateral damage” or “less than truthful statements.” We modify with passive-voice constructions such as “mistakes were made.” We modify with false equivalencies that provide for bad behavior the ready-made excuse that “everybody’s doing it.” And sometimes we modify with an eraser—simply removing offending and inconvenient truths from our reporting.”

Keith Olbermann agreed that there is self-censorship in the American media, and that:

You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble …. You cannot say: By the way, there’s something wrong with our …. system.

Former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006:

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. . . .

There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter – whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way.

MarketWatch columnist Brett Arends wrote in 2013:

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories.

Do you want to know what kind of people get promoted and succeed in the modern news organization? Social climbers. Networkers. People who are gregarious, who “buy in” to the dominant consensus, who go along to get along and don’t ask too many really awkward questions. They are flexible, well-organized, and happy with life.

And it shows.

This is why, just in the patch of financial and economic journalism, so many reporters are happy to report that U.S. corporations are in great financial shape, even though they also have surging debts, or that a “diversified portfolio” of stocks and bonds will protect you in all circumstances, even though this is not the case, or that defense budgets are being slashed, when they aren’t, or that the U.S. economy has massively outperformed rivals such as Japan, when on key metrics it hasn’t, or that companies must pay CEOs gazillions of dollars to secure the top “talent,” when they don’t need to do any such thing, and such pay is just plunder.

All of these things are “consensus” opinions, and conventional wisdom, which are repeated over and over again by various commentators and vested interests. Yet none of them are true.

If you want to be a glad-handing politician, be a glad-handing politician. If you want to be a reporter, then be angry, ask awkward questions, and absolutely hate it when everyone agrees with you.

The Jerusalem Post wrote last year:

Any university journalism course will teach that there are two forms of media censorship in the media: censorship and self-censorship. As one online article explains: “Censorship occurs when a state, political, religious or private party prohibits information from reaching citizens. Self-censorship occurs when journalists themselves prevent the publication of information… because they are fearful of what could happen if they publish certain information – they are fearful of injury to themselves or their families, fearful of a lawsuit or other economic consequence.”

***

A 2014 academic article was more alarmist in tone. M. Murat Yesil, assistant professor at Turkey’s Necmettin Erbakan University, wrote that “self-censoring practices of journalists put the future of journalism into danger… [such] practices may be threatening the future of journalism.” This past week, Spanish journalists are claiming a new law that protects police officers from having their photographs published will encourage self-censorship.

Self-censorship obviously occurs on the web as well as in old media. As Wikipedia notes:

Self-censorship is the act of censoring or classifying one’s own work (blog, book(s), film(s), or other means of expression) …

2. Censorship by Higher-Ups

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-6-x-cT42b8U/TlFEqwDTchI/AAAAAAAAKng/YIUYeB98Ypc/s1600/anthony+freda+HumanitarianBombs.jpg

Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com.

If journalists do want to speak out about an issue, they also are subject to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story.

The 2000 Pew and Columbia Journalism Review survey notes:

Fully half of [the investigative journalists surveyed] say newsworthy stories are often or sometimes ignored because they conflict with a news organization’s economic interests. More than six-in-ten (61%) believe that corporate owners exert at least a fair amount of influence on decisions about which stories to cover….

The Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal and the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, Seymour Hersh, said:

“All of the institutions we thought would protect us — particularly the press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress — they have failed. The courts . . . the jury’s not in yet on the courts. So all the things that we expect would normally carry us through didn’t. The biggest failure, I would argue, is the press, because that’s the most glaring….

Q: What can be done to fix the (media) situation?

[Long pause] You’d have to fire or execute ninety percent of the editors and executives. You’d actually have to start promoting people from the newsrooms to be editors who you didn’t think you could control. And they’re not going to do that.”

In fact many journalists are warning that the true story is not being reported.

series of interviews with award-winning journalists also documents censorship of certain stories by media editors and owners (and see these samples).

It’s not just the mainstream media. The large “alternative” media websites censor as well. For example:

Every year Project Censored [which Walter Cronkite and other ] puts together a list of the top 25 stories censored and ignored by the mainstream media.

How many of these stories were you aware of? Even regular consumers of alternative, independent media may be surprised to learn about some of these stories ….

There are many reasons for censorship by media higher-ups.

One is money.

The media has a strong monetary interest to avoid controversial topics in general. It has always been true that advertisers discourage stories which challenge corporate power. In 1969, Federal Communications Commission commissioner Nicholas Johnson noted that tv networks go to great lengths to please their sponsors.

Indeed, a 3-time Emmy Award winning CNN journalist says that CNN took money from the royalty in Bahrain to kill her hard-hitting expose, and instead run flattering propaganda for Bahrain.

Some media companies make a lot of money from the government, and so don’t want to rock the boat. For example, Glenn Greenwald notes:

Because these schools [owned by the Washington P0st’s parent company, whose profits subsidize the Post] target low-income students, the vast majority of their income is derived from federal loans. Because there have been so many deceptive practices and defaults, the Federal Government has become much more aggressive about regulating these schools and now play a vital role in determining which ones can thrive and which ones fail.

Put another way, the company that owns The Washington Post is almost entirely at the mercy of the Federal Government and the Obama administration — the entities which its newspaper ostensibly checks and holds accountable. “By the end of 2010, more than 90 percent of revenue at Kaplan’s biggest division and nearly a third of The Post Co.’s revenue overall came from the U.S. government.” The Post Co.’s reliance on the Federal Government extends beyond the source of its revenue; because the industry is so heavily regulated, any animosity from the Government could single-handedly doom the Post Co.’s business — a reality of which they are well aware:

The Post Co. realized there were risks attached to being dependent on federal dollars for revenue — and that it could lose access to that money if it exceeded federal regulatory limits.

It was understood that if you fell out of grace [with the Education Department], your business might go away,” said Tom Might, who as chief executive of Cable One, a cable service provider that is owned by The Post Co., sat in at company-wide board meetings.

Beyond being reliant on federal money and not alienating federal regulators, the Post Co. desperately needs favorable treatment from members of Congress, and has been willing to use its newspaper to obtain it:

Graham has taken part in a fierce lobbying campaign by the for-profit education industry. He has visited key members of Congress, written an op-ed article for the Wall Street Journal and hired for The Post Co. high-powered lobbying firms including Akin Gump and Elmendorf Ryan, at a cost of $810,000 in 2010. The Post has also published an editorial opposing the new federal rules, while disclosing the interests of its parent company.

The Post is hardly alone among major media outlets in being owned by an entity which relies on the Federal Government for its continued profitability. NBC News and MSNBC were long owned by GE, and now by Comcast, both of which desperately need good relations with government officials for their profits. The same is true of CBS (owned by Viacom), ABC (owned by Disney), and CNN (owned by TimeWarner). For each of these large corporations, alienating federal government officials is about the worst possible move it could make — something of which all of its employees, including its media division employees, are well aware. But the Post Co.’s dependence is even more overwhelming than most.

How can a company which is almost wholly dependent upon staying in the good graces of the U.S. Government possibly be expected to serve as a journalistic “watchdog” over that same Government? The very idea is absurd.


In addition, the government has allowed tremendous consolidation in ownership of the airwaves during the past decade.

Dan Rather has slammed media consolidation:

Likening media consolidation to that of the banking industry, Rather claimed that “roughly 80 percent” of the media is controlled by no more than six, and possibly as few as four, corporations.

This is documented by the following must-see charts prepared by:

And check out this list of interlocking directorates of big media companies from Fairness and Accuracy in Media, and this resource from the Columbia Journalism Review to research a particular company.

This image gives a sense of the decline in diversity in media ownership over the last couple of decades:

The large media players stand to gain billions of dollars in profits if the Obama administration continues to allow monopoly ownership of the airwaves by a handful of players. The media giants know who butters their bread. So there is a spoken or tacit agreement: if the media cover the administration in a favorable light, the MSM will continue to be the receiver of the government’s goodies.

The large alternative media websites also censor news which are too passionately anti-war.

Huffington Post – the largest liberal website – is owned by media giant AOL Time Warner, and censors any implication that a Democratic administration could be waging war for the wrong reasons. So HuffPost may criticize poor prosecution of the war, but would never say that the entire “War on Terror” as currently waged by the Obama administration is a stupid idea.

The largest “alternative” websites may weakly criticize minor details of the overall war effort, but would never say that more or less worldwide war-fighting is counterproductive. They may whine about a specific aspect of the war-fighting … but never look at the larger geopolitical factors involved.

They all seem to follow Keith Olbermann’s advice:

You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble …. You cannot say: By the way, there’s something wrong with our …. system.

3. Digital Demonetization

The biggest social media websites censor the hardest-hitting anti-war stories. And see this.

We noted in 2013:

RedditFacebook, Digg, Youtube and other social media sites have long censored content as well.

For example, Facebook pays low-wage foreign workers to delete certain content based upon a censorship list. For example, Facebook deletes accounts created by any Palestinian resistance groups. [See this]

Digg was caught censoring stories which were controversial or too critical of the government. See this and this.

Many accuse Youtube of blatant censorship.

Indeed, Youtube admits that it censors:

Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown

Moreover, all of the social media giants say they’re going to crack down on “fake news”.  For example, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social media are partnering with corporate media such as the ABC News, NBC News, Washington Post, New York Times, to filter out what they label as fake news.

Why is this a problem?

Because corporate media giants like the Washington Post are labeling virtually any website which questions U.S. foreign policy as “fake news” … and calling on them to be “investigated” by the FBI and Department of Justice for treason.

So think about how this will play out

1. First, criticizing U.S. wars will get a website listed on a slapdash “fake news” list

2. Second, the blacklisting will lead to social media – and perhaps search engines – blocking links to the site

3. With links blocked, ad revenue for the site will plummet, which will destroy the main source of revenue for most websites, effectively shutting them down.

Get it?

If this trend continues, it will lead to tremendous pressure to stop criticizing U.S. military policy.

4. Drumming Up Support for War

 War Is Sold Just Like Soda or Toothpaste

Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com

In addition, the owners of American media companies have long actively played a part in drumming up support for war.

It is painfully obvious that the large news outlets studiously avoided any real criticism of the government’s claims in the run up to the Iraq war. It is painfully obvious that the large American media companies acted as lapdogs and stenographers for the government’s war agenda.

Veteran reporter Bill Moyers criticized the corporate media for parroting the obviously false link between 9/11 and Iraq (and the false claims that Iraq possessed WMDs) which the administration made in the run up to the Iraq war, and concluded that the false information was not challenged because:

The [mainstream] media had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President — no questions asked.

As NBC News’ David Gregory (later promoted to host Meet the Press) said:

I think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not stand up [in the run-up to the war] and say ‘this is bogus, and you’re a liar, and why are you doing this,’ that we didn’t do our job. I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role.

Even after all of the mea culpas for their horrible Iraq war coverage – by the New York TimesWashington PostMSNBC and others – they did the exact same thing in the Libyan and Syrian wars.

But this is nothing new. In fact, the large media companies have drummed up support for all previous wars.

For example, Hearst helped drum up support for the Spanish-American War.

So why has the American press has consistently served the elites in disseminating their false justifications for war?

One of of the reasons is because the large media companies are owned by those who support the militarist agenda or even directly profit from war and terror (for example, NBC was owned by General Electric, one of the largest defense contractors in the world … which directly profits from war, terrorism and chaos. NBC was subsequently sold to Comcast).

Another seems to be an unspoken rule that the media will not criticize the government’s imperial war agenda.

And the media support isn’t just for war: it is also for various other shenanigans by the powerful. For example, a BBC documentary proves:

There was “a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American businessmen . . . . The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.”

Moreover, “the tycoons told the general who they asked to carry out the coup that the American people would accept the new government because they controlled all the newspapers.“

See also this book.

Have you ever heard of this scheme before? It was certainly a very large one. And if the conspirators controlled the newspapers then, how much worse is it today with media consolidation?

(Kevin Dutton – research psychologist at the University of Cambridge – whose research has been featured in Scientific American Mind, New Scientist, The Guardian, Psychology Today and USA Today – also notes that media personalities and journalists – especially when combined in the same persons – are likely to be psychopaths. Some 12 million Americans are psychopaths or sociopaths, and psychopaths tend to rub each others’ backs.)

5. Direct Government Funding and Support

An official summary of America’s overthrow of the democratically-elected president of Iran in the 1950′s states, “In cooperation with the Department of State, CIA had several articles planted in major American newspapers and magazines which, when reproduced in Iran, had the desired psychological effect in Iran and contributed to the war of nerves against Mossadeq.” (page x)

Indeed, it is well-documented that the CIA has long paid journalists to write propaganda. This includes foreign, as well as American reporters.

And the military-media alliance has continued without a break (as a highly-respected journalist says, “viewers may be taken aback to see the grotesque extent to which US presidents and American news media have jointly shouldered key propaganda chores for war launches during the last five decades.”)

As the mainstream British paper, the Independent, writes:

There is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it. The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news.

The article in the Independent discusses the use of “black propaganda” by the U.S. government, which is then parroted by the media without analysis; for example, the government forged a letter from al Zarqawi to the “inner circle” of al-Qa’ida’s leadership, urging them to accept that the best way to beat US forces in Iraq was effectively to start a civil war, which was then publicized without question by the media.

Indeed, many branches of the U.S. government – and allied governments – fund propaganda.

For example, the New York Times reports:

Richard Stengel, the State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy [i.e. minister of propaganda] … has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers ….

In other words, the State Department is supporting reporters who spout its party line about U.S. foreign policy without question.

And Robert Parry, the investigative reporter who many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s, points out:

In May 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a fact sheetsummarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”

USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the 2014 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian and U.S.-backed regime, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” skills that would have been quite helpful to the coup plotters.

***

Beyond funding from the State Department and USAID, tens of millions of dollars more are flowing through the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was started in 1983 under the guiding hand of CIA Director William Casey.

NED became a slush fund to help finance what became known, inside the Reagan administration, as “perception management,” the art of controlling the perceptions of domestic and foreign populations.

6. Access


Painting by Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com

Dan FroomkinBrett Arends and many other mainstream reporters have noted that “access” is the most prized thing for mainstream journalists … and that they will keep fawning over those in power so that they will keep their prized access.

But there is another dynamic related to access at play: direct cash-for-access payments to the media.

As previously mentioned, a 3-time Emmy Award winning CNN journalist says that CNN takes money from foreign dictators to run flattering propaganda.

Politico reveals:

For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post has offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to “those powerful few”: Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors…

The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — was a new sign of the lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time when most newspapers are struggling for survival.

That may be one reason that the mainstream news commentators hate bloggers so much. The more people who get their news from blogs instead of mainstream news sources, the smaller their audience, and the less the MSM can charge for the kind of “nonconfrontational access” which leads to puff pieces for the big boys.

7. Censorship by the Government

Finally, as if the media’s own interest in promoting war is not strong enough, the government has exerted tremendous pressure on the media to report things a certain way.

If reporters criticize those in power, they may be smeared by the government and targeted for arrest (and see this).

Indeed, the government treats real reporters as terrorists. Because the core things which reporters do could be considered terrorism, in modern America, journalists are sometimes targeted under counter-terrorism laws.

The government spies on reporters. Columbia Journalism Review notes:

The Edward Snowden leaks made clear that the internet is a tool for peering into the lives of citizens, including journalists, for every government with the means to do so. Whether domestic spying in the United States or Great Britain qualifies as censorship is a matter of debate. But the Obama administration’s authorization of secret wiretaps of journalists and aggressive leak prosecutions has had a well-documented chilling effect on national-security reporting. At the very least, electronic snooping by the government means that no journalist reporting on secrets can promise in good conscience to guarantee a source anonymity.

Not only has the government thrown media owners and reporters in jail if they’ve been too critical, it also claims the power to indefinitely detain journalists without trial or access to an attorney which chills chills free speech.

After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge.

An al-Jazeera journalist – in no way connected to any terrorist group – was held at Guantánamo for six years … mainly to be interrogated about the Arabic news network. And see this.

Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange could face the death penalty for his heinous crime of leaking whistleblower information which make those in power uncomfortable … i.e. being a reporter.

As constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald notes:

It seems clear that the US military now deems any leaks of classified information to constitute the capital offense of “aiding the enemy” or “communicating with the enemy” even if no information is passed directly to the “enemy” and there is no intent to aid or communicate with them. Merely informing the public about classified government activities now constitutes this capital crime because it “indirectly” informs the enemy.

***

If someone can be charged with “aiding” or “communicating with the enemy” by virtue of leaking to WikiLeaks, then why wouldn’t that same crime be committed by someone leaking classified information to any outlet: the New York Times, the Guardian, ABC News or anyone else?

***

International Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller made a similar point when the charges against Manning were first revealed:

“[I]f Manning has aided the enemy, so has any media organization that published the information he allegedly stole. Nothing in Article 104 requires proof that the defendant illegally acquired the information that aided the enemy. As a result, if the mere act of ensuring that harmful information is published on the internet qualifies either as indirectly ‘giving intelligence to the enemy’ (if the military can prove an enemy actually accessed the information) or as indirectly ‘communicating with the enemy’ (because any reasonable person knows that enemies can access information on the internet), there is no relevant factual difference between [Bradley] Manning and a media organization that published the relevant information.”

***

It is always worth underscoring that the New York Times has published far more government secrets than WikiLeaks ever has, and more importantly, has published far more sensitive secrets than WikiLeaks has (unlike WikiLeaks, which has never published anything that was designated “Top Secret”, the New York Times has repeatedly done so: the Pentagon Papers, the Bush NSA wiretapping program, the SWIFT banking surveillance system, and the cyberwarfare program aimed at Iran were all “Top Secret” when the newspaper revealed them, as was the network of CIA secret prisons exposed by the Washington Post). There is simply no way to convert basic leaks to WikiLeaks into capital offenses – as the Obama administration is plainly doing – without sweeping up all leaks into that attack.

***

The same [Obama] administration that has prosecuted whistleblowers under espionage charges that threatened to send them to prison for life without any evidence of harm to national security, and has brought double the number of such prosecutions as all prior administrations combined. Converting all leaks into capital offenses would be perfectly consistent with the unprecedented secrecy fixation on the part of the Most Transparent Administration Ever™.

The irony from these developments is glaring. The real “enemies” of American “society” are not those who seek to inform the American people about the bad acts engaged in by their government in secret. As Democrats once recognized prior to the age of Obama – in the age of Daniel Ellsberg – people who do that are more aptly referred to as “heroes”The actual “enemies” are those who abuse secrecy powers to conceal government actions and to threaten with life imprisonment or even execution those who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing.

Former attorney general Mukasey said the U.S. should prosecute Assange because it’s “easier” than prosecuting the New York Times.  Congress is considering a bill which would make even mainstream reporters liable for publishing leaked information (part of an all-out war on whistleblowing).

As such, the media companies have felt great pressure from the government to kill any real questioning of the endless wars.

For example, Dan Rather said, regarding American media, “What you have is a miniature version of what you have in totalitarian states”.

Tom Brokaw said “all wars are based on propaganda.

And the head of CNN said:

There was ‘almost a patriotism police’ after 9/11 and when the network showed [things critical of the administration’s policies] it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and “big people in corporations were calling up and saying, ‘You’re being anti-American here.’

Indeed, former military analyst and famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said that the government has ordered the media not to cover 9/11:

Ellsberg seemed hardly surprised that today’s American mainstream broadcast media has so far failed to take [former FBI translator and 9/11 whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds up on her offer, despite the blockbuster nature of her allegations [which Ellsberg calls “far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”].

As Edmonds has also alluded, Ellsberg pointed to the New York Times, who “sat on the NSA spying story for over a year” when they “could have put it out before the 2004 election, which might have changed the outcome.”

“There will be phone calls going out to the media saying ‘don’t even think of touching it, you will be prosecuted for violating national security,’” he told us.

* * *

“I am confident that there is conversation inside the Government as to ‘How do we deal with Sibel?’” contends Ellsberg. “The first line of defense is to ensure that she doesn’t get into the media. I think any outlet that thought of using her materials would go to to the government and they would be told ‘don’t touch this . . . .‘”

Indeed, in the final analysis, the main reason today that the media giants will not cover the real stories or question the government’s actions or policies in any meaningful way is that the American government and mainstream media been somewhat blended together.

Can We Win the Battle Against Censorship?

We cannot just leave governance to our “leaders”, as “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance” (Jefferson). Similarly, we cannot leave news to the corporate media. We need to “be the media” ourselves.

“To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Powerlessness and silence go together. We…should use our privileged positions not as a shelter from the world’s reality, but as a platform from which to speak. A voice is a gift. It should be cherished and used.”
– Margaret Atwood

“There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.”
– Howard Zinn (historian)

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent”
– Thomas Jefferson

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In a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday night, US President-elect Donald Trump outlined the right-wing program of extreme “America First” nationalism of the incoming administration.

The Cincinnati speech was unlike any delivered by a president or president-elect in US history. It was a combination of blatant contradictions, exaggerations, wild hyperbole, empty demagogy and praise for himself as the man who would fix all the problems facing the country. It combined threats against political enemies with pledges to work with anyone and everyone to overcome gridlock and restore American jobs.

While couched in rhetoric about protecting the “American worker,” Trump’s policy proposals centered on massive tax cuts to corporations and deregulation, combined with increasing the size of the military, expanding police powers and sharply curtailing immigration. During the rally Trump also announced that his choice for secretary of defense is retired general James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

Trump’s remarks were clearly shaped and likely written by Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News who has ties to fascistic organizations. Bannon has called for the formation of a new “movement”—a term Trump repeated throughout his remarks—based on economic nationalism and opposition to “globalists.”

A major theme was the need to “unify” the nation in opposition to Washington politicians who have subordinated “American interests” to foreign powers. “There is a lot of talk about how we are becoming a globalized world,” Trump said, “but the relationships people value in this country are local… There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that is the American flag.”

“From now on it is going to be America First,” Trump added. “We are going to put ourselves first… Our goal is to strengthen the bonds between citizens, to restore our sense of membership in a shared national community.”

As was the case during his campaign for president, Trump made a demagogic appeal to social anger over declining wages and social inequality. “Our government has failed to protect the interests of the American worker,” he said. “A shrinking workforce and flat wages are not going to be the new normal.”

There is a vast chasm between this empty populist rhetoric and the personnel that Trump has selected to populate his government. The speech followed a series of cabinet picks, including billionaire asset strippers, Wall Street bankers, and dedicated opponents of financial and corporate regulations, public education and Medicare and Medicaid, to lead the Treasury, Commerce, Education and Health and Human Services departments.

For all his talk of national “unity,” a Trump administration will be one of brutal class war. Trump’s “action plan” is centered on freeing corporations from any restraints on profit-making and exploitation. “Right now we punish companies for doing business in America,” he said. To bring back jobs, the new administration would “massively lower taxes, and make America the best place in the world to hire, to invest, to grow, to create and to expand.”

He added that he would “eliminate every single wasteful regulation that undermines the ability of our workers and our companies to compete with companies from foreign lands.”

Trump touted the deal with Carrier to continue production at its Indianapolis factory, which Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies Corp. (UTC), planned to shut by 2019 and shift production to Mexico. Carrier will retain only 800 of the 1,400 production workers at the plant, and the deal also sanctions the closure of the UTC factory in Huntington, Indiana, which will wipe out the jobs of another 700 workers.

In discussions late last month, Trump told UTC CEO Gregory Hayes that his plans to slash corporate taxes and gut labor, health and safety and environmental regulations would prove far more profitable for the company than the $65 million in annual savings it would gain from shifting production overseas. In exchange for the deal, Carrier was given another $7 million in state tax cuts and other subsidies. It is also likely that UTC, a major defense contractor, was promised even larger contracts under a Trump presidency.

Trump reiterated his proposal for major infrastructure projects, a plan that would be a boondoggle for corporations and essentially hand over public infrastructure to private companies. These measures, combined with greater restrictions on trade, would “usher in a new industrial revolution.”

Trump combined his program of tax cuts and deregulation with a call for sharp restrictions on immigration. “We will restore the sovereignty of the United States,” he said. “We will construct a great wall at the border” and “liberate our communities from the epidemic of gang violence and drugs pouring into our nation.”

Trump said little on foreign policy, except to criticize the $6 trillion spent on wars in the Middle East. He also said the US should “stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments” and instead focus on “rebuilding our country.” Under a Trump administration, he asserted, the US “will seek shared interests wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding and good will.”

In fact, Trump’s “America First” nationalism will be accompanied by a massive escalation of military violence. In his speech, Trump pledged a “national effort to build our badly depleted military” and called for a major campaign to “destroy ISIS.”

More significant is the selection of Mattis as secretary of defense. Mattis is a fanatic anti-Islamic militarist who played a significant role in the US invasion of Afghanistan and led the brutal 2004 assault on Falluja, Iraq. Speaking of his experiences in Afghanistan, Mattis said in 2005 that “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

While leading US Central Command under Obama from 2010 to 2013, Mattis was critical of the White House for not waging war aggressively enough in the Middle East and for being too conciliatory toward Iran.

In an indication of the dominance of the military in a Trump administration, Mattis would be the first ranking general to be defense secretary since George Marshall in 1950–51. Federal law stipulates that generals must be retired for seven years before leading the Pentagon, but Mattis is expected to get a waiver from Congress. He has the support of Senate Republicans, including Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mattis will work closely with Trump’s national security advisor, another retired general, Michael Flynn.

The unions and the Democratic Party have praised Trump, echoing his economic nationalism and echoing the lie that the billionaire real estate mogul, who will head up the most right-wing government in history, is a champion of the working class.

US Senator Joe Donnelly (Democrat-Indiana) said he hoped to work with Trump to “build on momentum created by your agreement with United Technologies” and adopt a federal “outsourcing” proposal that would “deny and claw back certain tax benefits to companies that move jobs offshore.” Directing his comment at Trump, he added, “I strongly encourage you to make it clear that efforts to ship jobs offshore to chase cheap wages will be addressed head on by the Trump Administration. I stand ready to assist in any way possible.”

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Four New York City colleges are among the 100-plus schools listed on a new website that catalogs professors who allegedly “advance a radical agenda.” The website, called Professor Watchlist, includes the names, photos, and sometimes the contact information of more than 200 professors nationwide.

The watchlist was created by conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA, launched last week, and has reportedly been in the works for six months. Its goal is to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The list includes one professor from Columbia University, two from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and three NYU professors. Brooklyn College is also included in the website’s school directory, but none of its professors have been included on the list.

Julio C. Pino, a history professor at Kent State University in Ohio, told the Times that the website “is a kind of normalizing of prosecuting professors, shaming professors, defaming professors.” Other professors who have been listed on the site have called it a threat to academic freedom.

In an interview with NYU Local, Professor Watchlist founder Charlie Kirk and writer Matt Lamb described it as an “aggregated list of documented news stories.”

Kirk and Lamb maintain that the website doesn’t threaten professors’ safety or limit their freedom of speech. “Putting news sources into an easy to search database does not endanger the safety of anyone,” Kirk and Lamb told Local.

Lamb compared the watchlist to websites like Campus Pride Index, a national list of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities, and said it was one of many resources students can use to evaluate colleges. “We’re going to make it easier for students to know what’s going on,” Lamb told the Chronicle.

In order for a professor to be placed on the watchlist, Lamb, who manages the website, needs to be presented with proof “documented by a news source or otherwise documented” by a syllabus or slides from a class presentation. But the documented proof—which the site presents as objective evidence of leftist indoctrination—is often distorted to suit TPUSA’s narrative.

John Jay professor Charles Strozier is included on the list for an essay he wrote in the Huffington Post titled “How Climate Change Helped ISIS.” According to Professor Watchlist, he argued that “law-abiding citizens become Taliban terrorist extremists due to climate change.” Strozier’s essay, however, argues that climate change contributed to a drought that “stroked simmering anger at Assad’s dictatorship” in Syria.

In a powerful op-ed for the NY Times, George Yancy, a black professor of philosophy at Emory University, shares his reaction to landing on the watchlist:

The Watchlist appears to be consistent with a nostalgic desire “to make America great again” and to expose and oppose those voices in academia that are anti-Republican or express anti-Republican values. For many black people, making America “great again” is especially threatening, as it signals a return to a more explicit and unapologetic racial dystopia. For us, dreaming of yesterday is not a privilege, not a desire, but a nightmare.

The new “watchlist” is essentially a new species of McCarthyism, especially in terms of its overtones of “disloyalty” to the American republic. And it is reminiscent of Cointelpro, the secret F.B.I. program that spied on, infiltrated and discredited American political organizations in the ’50s and ’60s. Its goal of “outing” professors for their views helps to create the appearance of something secretly subversive. It is a form of exposure designed to mark, shame and silence.

And Mark Crispin Miller, a media, culture, and communication professor at NYU, was included on the list because he “warned that President Bush was spreading propaganda in order to form a theocracy in the United States” and for allegedly comparing Bush to Hitler.

Miller denied the website’s claim that he compared the two. “I’d also like to know exactly what [Kirk] means by ‘anti-American values, since I’m a firm believer in the Bill of Rights, especially committed to the freedom of the press, and to electoral democracy,” he told NYU Local.

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Trump Ponders General David Petraeus for Senior Job

December 2nd, 2016 by Ray McGovern

The news that President-elect Donald Trump called in disgraced retired Gen. David Petraeus for a job interview as possible Secretary of State tests whether Trump’s experience in hosting “The Celebrity Apprentice” honed his skills for spotting an incompetent phony or not.

Does Trump need more data than the continuing bedlam in Iraq and Afghanistan to understand that one can earn a Princeton PhD by writing erudite-sounding drivel about “counterinsurgency” and still flunk war? Granted, the shambles in which Petraeus left Iraq and Afghanistan were probably more a result of his overweening careerism and political ambition than his misapplication of military strategy. But does that make it any more excusable?

Gen. David Petraeus in a photo with his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell. (U.S. government photo)

Gen. David Petraeus in a photo with his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell. (U.S. government photo)

In 2007, Adm. William Fallon, commander of CENTCOM with four decades of active-duty experience behind him, quickly took the measure of Petraeus, who was one of his subordinates while implementing a “surge” of over 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq.

Several sources reported that Fallon was sickened by Petraeus’s unctuous pandering to ingratiate himself. Fallon is said to have been so turned off by all the accolades in the flowery introduction given him by Petraeus that he called him to his face “an ass-kissing little chickenshit,” adding, “I hate people like that.” Sadly, Petraeus’s sycophancy is not uncommon among general officers. Uncommon was Fallon’s outspoken candor.

The past decade has shown that obsequiousness to those above him and callousness toward others are two of Petraeus’s most notable character traits. They go along with his lack of military acumen and his dishonesty as revealed in his lying to the FBI about handing over top-secret notebooks to his biographer/lover, an “indiscretion” that would have landed a less well-connected person in jail but instead got him only a mild slap on the wrist (via a misdemeanor guilty plea).

Indeed, Petraeus, the epitome of a “political general,” represents some of the slimiest depths of the Washington “swamp” that President-elect Trump has vowed to drain. Petraeus cares desperately about the feelings of his fellow elites but shows shocking disdain for the suffering of other human beings who are not so important.

In early 2011 in Afghanistan, Petraeus shocked aides to then-President Hamid Karzai after many children were burned to death in a “coalition” attack in northeastern Afghanistan by suggesting that Afghan parents may have burned their own children to exaggerate their claims of civilian casualties and discredit the U.S., reported The Washington Post, citing two participants at the meeting.

“Killing 60 people, and then blaming the killing on those same people, rather than apologizing for any deaths? This is inhuman,” one Afghan official said. “This is a really terrible situation.”

Yet, on other occasions, the politically savvy Petraeus can be a paragon of sensitivity – like when he is in danger of getting crosswise with the Israel Lobby.

Never did Petraeus’s fawning shine through with more brilliance, than when an (unintentionally disclosed) email exchange showed him groveling before arch-neocon Max Boot, beseeching Boot’s help in fending off charges that Petraeus was “anti-Israel” because his prepared testimony to a congressional committee included the no-brainer observations that Israeli-Palestinian hostility presents “distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” and that “this conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. … Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

So, telling the truth (perhaps accidentally in prepared testimony) made Petraeus squirm with fear about offending the powerful Israel Lobby, but he apparently didn’t hesitate to lie to FBI agents when he was caught in a tight spot for sharing highly sensitive intelligence with Paula Broadwell, his mistress/biographer. But, again, Petraeus realized that it helps to have influential friends. A court gave him a slap on the wrist with a sentence of two years probation and a fine of $100,000 – which is less than he usually makes for a single speaking engagement.

Military Incompetent Without Parallel

And, if President-elect Trump isn’t repulsed by the stench of hypocrisy – if he ignores Petraeus’s reckless handling of classified material after Trump lambasted Hillary Clinton for her own careless behavior in that regard – there is also the grim truth behind Petraeus’s glitzy image.

David Petraeus, a two-star general during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, with Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace.

David Petraeus, a two-star general during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, with Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace.

As a military strategist or even a trainer of troops, Petraeus has been an unparalleled disaster. Yes, the corporate media always runs interference for Official Washington’s favorite general. But that does not equate with genuine success.

The Iraq “surge,” which Petraeus oversaw, was misrepresented in the corporate media as a huge victory – because it was credited with a brief dip in the level of violence at the cost of some 1,000 American lives (and those of many more Iraqis) – but the “surge” failed its principal goal of buying time to heal the rift between Shiites and Sunnis, a division that ultimately led to the emergence of the Islamic State (or ISIS).

Then, in early 2014, the crackerjack Iraqi troops whom Petraeus bragged about training ran away from Mosul, leaving their modern U.S.-provided weapons behind for the Islamic State’s jihadists to play with.

In part because of that collapse – with Iraqi forces only now beginning to chip away at ISIS control of Mosul – the Obama administration was dragged into another Mideast war, spilling across Iraq and Syria and adding to the droves of refugees pouring into Europe, a crisis that is now destabilizing the European Union.

You might have thought that the combination of military failures and scandalous behavior would have ended David Petraeus’s “government service,” but he has never lost his skill at putting his finger to the wind.

During the presidential campaign, the windsock Petraeus was circumspect, which was understandable given the uncertainty regarding which way the wind was blowing.

However, on Sept. 1, 2015, amid calls from the mainstream U.S. media and establishment think tanks for President Obama to escalate the U.S. proxy war to overthrow the Syrian government, Petraeus spoke out in favor of giving more weapons to “moderate” Syrian rebels, despite the widespread recognition that U.S.-supplied guns and rockets were ending up in the hands of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

The new harebrained scheme – favored by Petraeus and other neocons – fantasized about Al Qaeda possibly joining the fight against the Islamic State, although ISIS sprang from Al Qaeda and splintered largely over tactical issues, such as how quickly to declare a jihadist state, not over fundamental fundamentalist goals.

But more miscalculations in the Middle East would be right up Petraeus’s alley. He played an important role in facilitating the emergence of the Islamic State by his too-clever-by-half policy of co-opting some Sunni tribes with promises of shared power in Baghdad and with lots of money, and then simply looking the other way as the U.S.-installed Shia government in Baghdad ditched the promises.

Surge? Or Splurge With Lives

The so-called “surges” of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan are particularly gross examples of the way American soldiers have been used as expendable pawns by ambitious generals like Petraeus and ambitious politicians like former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Former CIA Director (and later Defense Secretary) Robert Gates.

Former CIA Director (and later Defense Secretary) Robert Gates.

The problem is that overweening personal ambition can end up getting a lot of people killed. In the speciously glorified first “surge,” President George W. Bush sent more than 30,000 additional troops into Iraq in early 2007. During the period of the “surge,” about 1,000 U.S. troops died.

There was a similar American death toll during President Barack Obama’s “surge” of another 30,000 troops into Afghanistan in early 2010, a shift toward a counterinsurgency strategy that had been pressed on Obama by Petraeus, Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Despite the loss of those 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers, the counterinsurgency “surge” had little effect on the course of the Afghan War.

The bloody chaos that continues in Iraq today and in the never-ending war in Afghanistan was entirely predictable. Indeed, it was predicted by those of us able to spread some truth around via the Internet, while being blacklisted by the fawning corporate media, which cheered on the “surges” and their chief architect, David Petraeus.

But the truth is not something that thrives in either U.S. politics or media these days. Campaigning early this year in New Hampshire, then-presidential aspirant Jeb Bush gave a short partial-history lesson about his big brother’s attack on Iraq. Referring to the so-called Islamic State, Bush said, “ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president. ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq’ was wiped out … the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq. …”

Jeb Bush is partially right about ISIS; it didn’t exist when his brother George attacked Iraq. Indeed, Al Qaeda didn’t exist in Iraq until afterthe U.S. invasion when it emerged as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and it wasn’t eliminated by the “surge.”

With huge sums of U.S. cash going to Sunni tribes in Anbar province, Al Qaeda in Iraq just pulled back and regrouped. Its top leaders came from the ranks of angry Sunnis who had been officers in Saddam Hussein’s army and – when the “surge” failed to achieve reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites – the U.S. cash proved useful in expanding Sunni resistance to Baghdad’s Shiite government. From the failed “surge” strategy emerged the rebranded “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” the Islamic State.

So, despite Jeb Bush’s attempted spin, the reality is that his brother’s aggressive war in Iraq created both “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and its new incarnation, Islamic State.

The mess was made worse by subsequent U.S. strategy – beginning under Bush and expanding under President Obama – of supporting insurgents in Syria. By supplying money, guns and rockets to “moderate” Sunni rebels, that strategy has allowed the materiel to quickly fall into the hands of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Nusra Front, and its jihadist allies, Ahrar al-Sham.

In other words, U.S. strategy – much of it guided by David Petraeus – continues to strengthen Al Qaeda, which – through its Nusra affiliate and its Islamic State spin-off – now occupies large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Escaping a ‘Lost War’

All this is among the fateful consequences of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq 13 years ago – made worse (not better) by the “surge” in 2007, which contributed significantly to this decade’s Sunni-Shia violence. The real reason for Bush’s “surge” seems to have been to buy time so that he and Vice President Dick Cheney could leave office without having a lost war on their résumés.

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)

As author Steve Coll has put it, “The decision [to surge] at a minimum guaranteed that his [Bush’s] presidency would not end with a defeat in history’s eyes. By committing to the surge [the President] was certain to at least achieve a stalemate.”

According to Bob Woodward, Bush told key Republicans in late 2005 that he would not withdraw from Iraq, “even if Laura and [first-dog] Barney are the only ones supporting me.” Woodward made it clear that Bush was well aware in fall 2006 that the U.S. was losing.

Indeed, by fall 2006, it had become unavoidably clear that a new course had to be chosen and implemented in Iraq, and virtually every sober thinker seemed opposed to sending more troops.

The senior military, especially CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid and his man on the ground in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, emphasized that sending still more U.S. troops to Iraq would simply reassure leading Iraqi politicians that they could relax and continue to take forever to get their act together.

Here, for example, is Gen. Abizaid’s answer at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Nov. 15, 2006, to Sen. John McCain, who had long been pressing vigorously for sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq:

”Senator McCain, I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, ‘in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?’ And they all said no.

“And the reason is because we want the Iraqis to do more. It is easy for the Iraqis to rely upon us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.”

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, sent a classified cable to Washington warning that “proposals to send more U.S. forces to Iraq would not produce a long-term solution and would make our policy less, not more, sustainable,” according to a New York Times retrospective on the “surge” published on Aug. 31, 2008. Khalilzad was arguing, unsuccessfully, for authority to negotiate a political solution with the Iraqis.

There was also the establishment-heavy Iraq Study Group, created by Congress and led by Republican stalwart James Baker and Democrat Lee Hamilton (with Robert Gates as a member although he quit before the review was competed). After months of policy review, the Iraq Study Group issued a final report on Dec. 6, 2006, that began with the ominous sentence “The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.”

It called for: “A change in the primary mission of U.S. Forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly… By the first quarter of 2008…all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.”

Rumsfeld’s Known-Knowns

The little-understood story behind Bush’s decision to catapult Robert Gates into the post of Defense Secretary was the astonishing fact that Donald Rumsfeld, of all people, was pulling a Robert McNamara; that is, he was going wobbly on a war based largely on his own hubris-laden, misguided advice.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a press briefing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers. (State Department photo)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a press briefing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers. (State Department photo)

On Nov. 6, 2006, a day before the mid-term elections, Rumsfeld sent a memo to the White House, in which he acknowledged, “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.” The rest of his memo sounded very much like the emerging troop-drawdown conclusions of the Iraq Study Group.

The first 80 percent of Rumsfeld’s memo addressed “Illustrative Options,” including his preferred – or “above the line” – options such as “an accelerated drawdown of U.S. bases … to five by July 2007” and withdrawal of U.S. forces “from vulnerable positions — cities, patrolling, etc. … so the Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.”

Finally, Rumsfeld had begun to listen to his generals and others who knew which end was up.?The hurdle? Bush and Cheney were not about to follow Rumsfeld’s example in “going wobbly.” Like Robert McNamara at a similar juncture during Vietnam, Rumsfeld had to be let go before he caused a President to “lose a war.”

Waiting in the wings, though, was Robert Gates, who had been CIA director under President George H. W. Bush, spent four years as president of Texas A&M, and had returned to the Washington stage as a member of the Iraq Study Group. While on the ISG, he evidenced no disagreement with its emerging conclusions – at least not until Bush asked him to become Secretary of Defense in early November 2006.

It was awkward. Right up to the week before the mid-term elections on Nov. 7, 2006, President Bush had insisted that he intended to keep Rumsfeld in place for the next two years. Suddenly, the President had to deal with Rumsfeld’s apostasy on Iraq.?Rumsfeld had let reality get to him, together with the very strong anti-surge protestations by all senior uniformed officers save one — the ambitious David Petraeus, who had jumped onboard for the “surge” escalation, which guaranteed another star on his lapel.

All Hail Petraeus

With the bemedaled Petraeus in the wings and guidance on strategy from arch-neocons, such as retired General Jack Keane and think-tank analyst Frederick Kagan, the White House completed the coup against the generals by replacing Rumsfeld with Gates and recalling Casey and Abizaid and elevating Petraeus.

Gen. David Petraeus posing before the U.S. Capitol with Kimberly Kagan, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War. (Photo credit: ISW’s 2011 Annual Report)

Gen. David Petraeus posing before the U.S. Capitol with Kimberly Kagan, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War, the wife of Frederick Kagan. (Photo credit: ISW’s 2011 Annual Report)

Amid the mainstream media’s hosannas for Petraeus and Gates, the significance of the shakeup was widely misunderstood, with key senators, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, buying the false narrative that the changes presaged a drawdown in the war rather than an escalation.

So relieved were the senators to be rid of the hated-but-feared Rumsfeld that the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Dec. 5, 2006, on Gates’s nomination had the feel of a pajama party (I was there). Gates told them bedtime stories – and vowed to show “great deference to the judgment of generals.”

With unanimous Democratic support and only two conservative Republicans opposed, Gates was confirmed by the full Senate on Dec. 6, 2006.

On Jan. 10, 2007, Bush formally unveiled the bait-and-switch, announcing the “surge” of 30,000 additional troops, a mission that would be overseen by Gates and Petraeus. Bush did acknowledge that there would be considerable loss of life in the year ahead as U.S. troops were assigned to create enough stability for Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni factions to reach an accommodation.

At least, he got the loss-of-life part right. Around 1,000 U.S. troops died during the “surge” along with many more Iraqis. But Bush, Cheney, Petraeus, and Gates apparently deemed that cost a small price to pay for enabling them to blame a successor administration for the inevitable withdrawal from America’s failed war of aggression.

The gambit worked especially well for Gates and Petraeus. Amid glowing mainstream media press clippings about the “successful surge” and “victory at last” in Iraq, Gates was hailed as a new “wise man” and Petraeus was the military genius who pulled victory from the jaws of defeat. Their reputations were such that President Obama concluded that he had no choice but to keep them on, Gates as Defense Secretary and Petraeus as Obama’s top general in the Middle East.

Petraeus then oversaw the “surge” in Afghanistan and landed the job of CIA director, where Petraeus reportedly played a major role in arming up the Syrian rebels in pursuit of another “regime change,” this time in Syria.

Although Petraeus’s CIA tenure ended in disgrace in November 2012 when his dangerous liaison with Paula Broadwell was disclosed, his many allies in Official Washington’s powerful neocon community are now pushing him on President-elect Trump as the man to serve as Secretary of State.

Petraeus is known as a master of flattery, something that seemingly can turn Trump’s head. But the President-elect should have learned from his days hosting “The Celebrity Apprentice” that the winning contender should not be the one most adept at sucking up to the boss.

(Now, with the whole Middle East in turmoil, I find some relief in this brief parody by comedienne Connie Bryan of Petraeus’s performance in training Iraqi troops.)

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, from the administration of John Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush.  He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

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Mosul and Imperialist “Human Rights”

December 2nd, 2016 by James Cogan

Once again, the United Nations Security Council convened in emergency session on Wednesday to denounce Syria and Russia over the plight of civilians in the war-torn city of Aleppo.

An offensive begun last weekend by pro-Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, has recaptured 40 percent of the city’s sectors that were held by various Al Qaeda-linked and other Islamist militias since they launched a civil war against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. Thousands of people are fleeing from the US-backed Islamist militias. Syrian government officials have asserted they will retake all of Aleppo by the end of the year.

US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power was among those who addressed the Security Council. Power spoke as the representative of the Obama administration, which actively intrigued with the Islamist militias to initiate the war against Assad. Washington has worked with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf State monarchies, as well as the European powers, to recruit, fund and arm the “rebels.” It has used the Islamists as its proxies in a pro-imperialist regime-change operation. The result has been over 400,000 deaths, the displacement of over 10 million people and the destruction of much of Syria.

Power spoke as Washington contemplates the prospect that large sections of its militia proxies could be destroyed over the coming weeks, signalling the general failure of its efforts to overthrow the Assad regime. She demanded an immediate ceasefire and “compliance with international humanitarian laws.”

In emotive language, Power declared: “I would ask Council members and all citizens of the world to just force yourself to a take a break from your day and watch the images from eastern Aleppo. Parents cradling their children in agony, civilians on foot mowed down literally carrying their suitcases, which then lay beside their lifeless bodies…”

The Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in Aleppo is, without question, brutal and merciless. Professions of concern by US imperialism, however, which has ravaged much of the Middle East over the past 25 years, carry no political or moral weight. Power’s rhetoric and similar statements in the Security Council by US allies, such as France, Britain, Spain and New Zealand, were even more grotesque given the character of the US-directed assault underway on the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Six hundred kilometres to the east of Aleppo, the US and its allies are assisting an Iraqi government offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which, bolstered through Washington’s intrigues in Syria, crossed into Iraq and took control of Mosul in 2014. The US-backed regime in Baghdad claims the city is now fully surrounded by tens of thousands of Iraqi Army troops, Kurdish forces and various Shiite militia members.

A claim, repeated in an Associated Press report, that the US-led forces are “avoiding the use of overwhelming power to protect civilians,” is crass propaganda. The Iraqi military has asserted that the ISIS fighters intend to “fight to the death,” effectively ruling out any prospect of negotiations. Leaflets have been dropped instructing the up to 1.6 million civilians trapped in the city to remain in their homes, while a “coalition” of American, British, French, Australian, Canadian and Jordanian aircraft bomb suspected ISIS positions. A November 24 humanitarian overview by aid organisation REACH reported that families are crowding into the lower floors of housing complexes out of fear of the airstrikes.

Iraqi special forces units, accompanied in most cases by American personnel, are pushing through the eastern suburbs, clearing them block by block. The tactics they employ are simple, crude and, given the instructions to civilians to remain in their homes, murderous. They call in air attacks, artillery or tanks to destroy any building that is suspected of being occupied by ISIS or booby-trapped with explosives. Civilian casualties have been justified in advance by claiming that ISIS is using people as “human shields.”

The Iraqi military boasted this week it has killed 1,000 ISIS fighters, while ISIS has claimed to have killed over 3,700 pro-government and Kurdish troops. No credible figures are being provided by either side on the toll inflicted on civilians, but reports suggest it is high. West Erbil Hospital, located some 80 kilometres away from Mosul, is admitting 150 military and civilian casualties every day. The only wounded civilians who could reach the hospital are those found in areas captured by government forces. Thus far, barely 70,000 people have managed to escape.

Mosul—a city with a history stretching back over 4,000 years—is literally being destroyed in order to “save it.” Bombing this week destroyed a major water pipeline in the eastern suburbs, cutting off water to some 650,000 people. Electricity is already largely cut. Food prices have reportedly doubled as supplies dwindle. The city’s health system is dysfunctional. The university and numerous other public buildings have been reduced to rubble. On Wednesday, coalition aircraft bombed and “disabled” four major bridges over the Tigris River that link the western and eastern sectors of Mosul, further isolating the population in the east from potential resupplies of food and other essentials.

The siege of Mosul is predicted to continue for weeks, if not months. As winter and freezing temperatures set in, exposure, starvation and disease will likely take more lives than the bombing, particularly among children, the infirm and the elderly.

The Obama administration did not this week demand ceasefires or “compliance with international humanitarian laws” in Mosul. The attitude of the imperialist powers to war crimes is determined by whether they benefit from them. In Aleppo, the interests of the US and European powers are being set back, so there is condemnation and calls for action. In Mosul, US interests are being asserted, so civilian deaths are downplayed or outright denied.

Whenever representatives of imperialism and the capitalist ruling elite speak of “human rights,” the independent standpoint of the working class must be contempt and hostility. The only way to end the criminality of imperialist war and neo-colonial intrigue is to end capitalism itself.

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At a Thursday Cincinnati rally, Trump announced retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as defense secretary – calling him “the closest thing we have to (WW II era) General George Patton.” Earlier he tweeted he’s “being considered for Secretary of Defense…A true General’s General!” 

He last served as US CENTCOM head from August 2010 to March 2013. Notoriously known as “Mad Dog,” he earlier said “it’s a lot of fun to fight…It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you. I like brawling.”

He considers Iran the greatest threat to Middle East peace, a disgraceful Big Lie. Iran hasn’t attacked another country in over two centuries. It threatens none now.

Mattis opposes rapprochement with Russia, irresponsibly claiming nonexistent Putin revanchism and belligerence.

During US naked aggression on Iraq, Bush/Cheney’s war, Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion and subsequent assault on Fallujah.

Mass slaughter, arbitrary arrests, torture, humiliation and other forms of abuse targeted city residents.

US-enforced siege denied them food, medicines, and other essentials – a flagrant Fourth Geneva violation, a Nuremberg-level high crime.

Random bombing and rocket fire (including use of cluster bombs, white phosphorous, and other illegal munitions), massacred or wounded thousands, many thousands more displaced, homes and other property destroyed.

Collective punishment included US snipers shooting “any moving body,” including noncombatant men, women, children, the elderly and infirm.

A bridge connecting Fallujah to the area’s general hospital was cut off, preventing the ill and injured from reaching it for treatment – another flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.

Residents were denied food, water and medical help for days. Fallujah’s football stadium became a burial ground for thousands of dead victims of US barbarism.

Two Fallujah battles were fought – from April 4, 2003 – May 1, and from November 7 – December 23. Between them, US forces kept terror-bombing residential and industrial areas.

Negotiations to halt hostilities failed. Washington spurned peace, chose mass slaughter and destruction instead, mostly harming civilians.

Hundreds arrested went to Abu Ghraib and other infamous US torture prisons. Many died from torture and ill treatment.

During combat, witnesses confirmed the wholesale slaughter of unarmed civilians in their homes and mosques, some shot after being handcuffed.

Children saw parents shot. Adults saw spouses and children killed. US Marines participated in looting homes and stores, many indiscriminately destroyed.

Vast environmental contamination caused a significant increase is cancer cases and congenital malformations. Official Fallujah health statistics showed the following:

  • in 2006, 5,928 documented cases of previously unknown or rarely seen diseases;
  • in the first half of 2007, 2,447 seriously ill patients (half of them children) had mostly little known symptoms;
  • research studies determined sharp increases of leukemia, other cancers, infant mortality, abnormal deliveries, and injuries similar injuries to Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, clearly from depleted uranium and other toxic chemical exposures;
  • a February 2010 field study found cancers had multiplied fourfold, ones similar to Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors;
  • over a five year period, a 12-fold cancer rate in 14-year-old children was found;
  • infant mortality was 80 per thousand live births, compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan, and 9.7 in Kuwait;
  • the gender birth ratio was also affected, dropping from almost even to a three-to-one female weighting over males; and
  • birth defects rose over 25%, many hideous from radiation poisoning; congenital heart defects had the highest incidence, followed by neural tube defects, and skeletal abnormalities.

Post-9/11 alone, US wars of aggression were responsible for millions of casualties – from war, related violence, preventable diseases, starvation and overall deprivation, civilians mostly affected, continuing to die, injured or otherwise abused by America’s rage for war.

Does Mattis’ selection indicate Trump’s intent to be America’s latest warrior president, renouncing peace for endless conflicts?

Will lofty promises be breached? Does calling Mattis “the real deal…a brilliant, wonderful man” indicate support for his war crimes? Will endless imperial wars continue on Trump’s watch?

A Final Comment

If confirmed, Mattis will be the first retired US general to serve as defense secretary since George Marshall, appointed in 1950. Federal law requires appointees not to have been on active duty for seven years.

Congress granted Marshall an exemption, likely for Mattis as well.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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Saving Face: America’s TPP Disaster

December 2nd, 2016 by Joseph Thomas

Long before US President-elect Donald Trump even began his presidential campaign, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was already crumbling along with the rest of America’s so-called “pivot to Asia” policy.

In late 2011, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would begin promoting what was called “America’s Pacific Century.” A US State Department archive containing Secretary Clinton’s remarks on the subject would reveal the “pivot to Asia” being promoted as (our emphasis):

…a need for a more dynamic and durable transpacific system, a more mature security and economic architecture that will promote security, prosperity, and universal values, resolve differences among nations, foster trust and accountability, and encourage effective cooperation on the scale that today’s challenges demand.

And just as the United States played a central role in shaping that architecture across the Atlantic – to ensure that it worked, for us and for everyone else – we are now doing the same across the Pacific. The 21st century will be America’s Pacific century, a period of unprecedented outreach and partnership in this dynamic, complex, and consequential region.

In both title and stated intentions, the “pivot to Asia” was a policy of, by and for the United States. Secretary Clinton would compare US intentions toward Asia Pacific with its alleged accomplishments across the Atlantic, even citing Afghanistan and Libya as success stories despite the fact that both nations were rendered and to this day remain decimated, dysfunctional failed states following US intervention.

From the Beginning the TPP was About Domination, Not Cooperation 

Secretary Clinton would mention the TPP specifically, claiming:

There is new momentum in our trade agenda with the recent passage of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement and our ongoing work on a binding, high-quality Trans-Pacific Partnership, the so-called TPP. The TPP will bring together economies from across the Pacific, developed and developing alike, into a single 21st century trading community. A rules-based order will also be critical to meeting APEC’s goal of eventually creating a free trade area of the Asia Pacific.

In reality, however, the TPP was never about creating a “trading community,” it was about reasserting US domination over Asian-Pacific trade. Prominent US policy think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), published a paper authored by Robert Blackwill, Henry Kissinger and Ashley Tellis titled, “Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China.” In it, the TPP is referred to specifically in the context of containing China, not fostering economic cooperation (our emphasis):

The congressional role in sustaining a successful U.S. grand strategy toward China is manifested primarily in three areas: giving the president trade-promotion authority so that he may quickly conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) freetrade agreements now being negotiated in Asia, reforming and providing the defense budgets necessary to maintain U.S. power projection and a credible Asian alliance system, and continuously holding U.S. administrations accountable for the implementation of their response to the rise of Chinese power.

Here, rhetoric about building stronger and more beneficial relationships with Asia-Pacific is dropped, and the reality of US policy serving a singular agenda, the containment of China’s regional and global rise, is revealed. Throughout the report, the TPP is repeatedly cited as a means of competing with what US policymakers call “China’s asymmetrical economic advantages.”

China’s economic and geopolitical rise has in turn helped drive development across all of Asia. Immense infrastructure projects from highways connecting China to Thailand, dams powering Laos, ports and pipelines in Myanmar and rail projects region-wide alone have tangibly transformed Asia over the past decade in ways US economic and military ties have failed categorically to match.

The rise of China has led to new markets the entire region can now exploit, as well as providing Chinese citizens with disposable income reviving tourism across the region.

Hindering China’s rise, as the TPP seeks to do, then only hinders the collective rise of Asia-Pacific itself. That might explain why the US struggled to sell the TPP even to nations it repeatedly claimed constituted its traditional allies in the region.

“Universal Values” in Reverse 

In addition to resistance from national governments across the region to sign onto the self-destructive, economically confining deal, the people of each and every respective nation courted for the deal also vehemently protested it. From New Zealand to Australia, Vietnam to Thailand and Japan to Malaysia, protests from a variety of advocacy groups periodically protested the TPP throughout the various stages of its development.

For nations like Japan, New Zealand and Australia, their governments simply ignoring protests and pushing the deal forward regardless only helped further expose its illegitimacy. Problems with the deal’s transparency also hindered its legitimacy and raised questions about its true purpose. Secretary Clinton’s insistence that the American “pivot to Asia” was about  promoting “security, prosperity, and universal values,” as well as fostering “trust and accountability,” were seriously undermined by the TPP’s secretive nature, and frank policy papers like the CFR’s “Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China” revealing the true nature of the deal.

“Trust and accountability” seem to be values least served by a secretive trade deal being forced onto an unwilling public, especially when it is being promoted as a means to strengthen economic cooperation when in reality it is designed to target and undermine cooperation with China — the largest economy in the region.

Trump “Nationalism” a Convenient Face-Saving Opportunity 

US President-elect Donald Trump’s supposed nationalism provides US policymakers with a convenient face-saving opportunity. The TPP was already doomed long before the 2016 elections, but with President-elect Trump’s arrival on the political scene, policymakers and the Western media who have long attempted to promote the TPP, are now able to blame the TPP’s collapse on reinvigorated nationalist and protectionist proclivities in the United States, not the fundamentally flawed concept of maintaining a unipolar international order in the 21st century.

The BBC’s article, “US leaving TPP: A great news day for China,” openly admits the TPP was perceived by China as a “thinly disguised plan to contain China’s growing might.” It also admits that the deal was more about “bolstering American leadership in the region” than enhancing economic opportunities.

Despite these admissions and the obvious, counterproductive implications they have in regards to a region recoiling from US domination, the BBC attempts to both blame the incoming Trump administration for the deals failure, and portray Asia-Pacific’s independence from US influence as a negative net result for the world.

In reality, the Trump administration is subordinate to the vast corporate and financial interests that created and promoted the TPP in the first place. This attempt to save face by pinning the TPP’s demise on an administration that hasn’t even taken office yet, is simply a means of compartmentalising failure.

The United States is still deeply committed to projecting power and influence into Asia-Pacific, as embodied by ongoing operations carried out under the guise of “democracy promotion” through organisations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) in support of opposition fronts across the region that are indebted to and eager to serve American interests.

The most unpleasant aspects of the TPP deal have been and will continue to be promoted across Asia-Pacific through more subtle means, including through the work of various US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) as well as through lobbying groups and co-opted political fronts and the legislation pushed through by them on behalf of Washington and Wall Street.

At the end of the day, the Trump administration is simply helping the system tie up a loose end in the least embarrassing manner possible, while retrenching the TPP’s ambitions in a more decentralised and subtle strategy.

The Asia-Pacific region will need to continue building alternative networks and internal economic strength to counteract these attempts by Washington to reassert American domination across the region, domination that it has held onto for nearly a century with little for Asia to show for it beside war, political instability and economic manipulation designed to serve American interests at the cost of Asian prosperity and progress.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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After six years of refusing to accept full responsibility for causing a deadly Cholera outbreak in Haiti which has killed up to 30, 000 people since 2010, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon finally offered what he suggested was an official apology on Thursday.

Speaking at a special meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, he addressed his remarks directly to the Haitian people in Creole and French. “We apologize to the Haitian people. We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role,” said Ban.

While in August a U.N. spokesperson had admitted the organization needed to “do much more” to address its role in the deadly outbreak – a statement which the U.N.’s own special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said was a “disgrace” – this is the first time the secretary-general himself has offered an explicit apology.

Ban added that the U.N. role in the epidemic

“leaves a blemish on the reputation of U.N. peacekeeping and the organization worldwide. For the sake of the Haitian people, but also for the sake of the United Nations itself, we have a moral responsibility to act and a collective responsibility to deliver.”

While Ban’s statement did accept “moral” responsibility, it was careful to avoid any admission of legal liability.

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston slammed the statement, calling it a “half apology”. Alston told the Guardian that the ” determination not to accept legal responsibility entrenches a scandalous legal maneuver designed to sidestep the U.N.’s legal obligations,” adding that “it renders a meaningful apology impossible, as is made clear by the half-apology of the secretary-general today: he apologizes that the U.N. has not done more to eradicate cholera, but not for causing the disease in the first place,” he concluded.

The cholera epidemic first struck Haiti in October 2010, less than one year after the disastrous earthquake that worsened longstanding poverty and instability. The first people affected by the outbreak lived near a U.N. base housing over 450 peacekeepers, recently transferred from Nepal where cholera was already an issue. Multiple studies identified the peacekeepers as ground zero for the epidemic which has since spread throughout the Caribbean.

Haiti’s representative to the U.N., Jean Cazeau, said “The U.N. has shown it can admit making mistakes,” adding that the statement represents “a radical change of attitude away from the morally unjustifiable approach from the U.N. until now.”

Brian Concannon, executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said, “Haitians are looking for a less qualified apology – for both introducing cholera and for the six years of denial of responsibility, which was an insult to Haitian dignity.”

While sidestepping legal responsibility and thus the financial liabilities that come with it, Ban reiterated his plan to raise US$400 million over the next 3 years to combat the epidemic and redress some of the damages wrought on the region.

Watch video here

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Syrian government forces have liberated from militants 16 neighborhoods of Aleppo city (populated with 90,000 people), the Russian Defense Ministry announced yesterday after the Syrian army and its allies seized the Sheikh Sa’eed Neighborhood and the Sadcop Fuel Depot from Jaish al-Fatah militant coalition, led by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham terrorist group. According to Chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operational Directorate, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy over 18,000 civilians were able to left militant-controlled areas of the city.

Today, the army and its allies have continued attacks against militants in Karam al-Jazmati, Karam al-Tarab, Amiriyah and Sikarry and in the area of Bustan al-Qasr. Experts say the strategic goal of Syrian military in the current situation is to fully secure Aleppo city and to launch an operation to develop the advance in the direction of Idlib. At the same time, the government will need to contribute efforts to oppose the Turkish military expansion in northern Syria.

The Russian Aerospace Forces continue airstrikes on militant targets in the province of Hama. On November 30, Russian airstrikes were reported in the area of villages of Kafr Zita and Halfaya. In Kafr Zita, they killed 6 members, including a local commander, of the Free Syrian Army’s Central Division that used to shell the Syrian military’s Hama Airbase.

Syrian government forces are clashing with ISIS terrorists in the eastern part of Homs province. On November 30, ISIS units attempted to advance near al-Shaer, al-Mahr and Mustadira oil fields, but failed to achieve any success. On December 1, sporadic fighting continued near al-Shaer. Some 8 ISIS members were reported killed by pro-government sources. Meanwhile, the Syrian Air Fore delivered a series of airstrikes on ISIS targets near Sukhnah, Talat al-Awamid and al-Quaryatayn.

On November 30, pro-Turkey militants, supported by the Turkish Armed Forces, attacked the joint forces of the Syrian army and the Kurdish YPG in the village of Azraq, located about 6 km west of al-Bab. After a series of firefights and artillery duels, pro-government forces were pushed to retreat from the village. On December 1, the army-YPG forces liberated Tell Rahhal from ISIS amid continued reports about the fighting with Turkey-led forces. Pro-Turkey forces also clashed with YPG units in Qert Weran, Oshali and Sheikh Nasir.

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cia

The Major Purveyor of ‘Fake News’ is the CIA-Corporate Complex

By Wayne Madsen, December 01 2016

The US corporate media, its strings pulled by the modern version of the Central Intelligence Agency’s old Operation MOCKINGBIRD media influencing operation, is laughably accusing Russia of generating «fake news» to influence the outcome of the American presidential election. In a November 24, 2016, article in the CIA-connected Washington Post, reporter Craig Timberg reported: «Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human ‘trolls,’ and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers». The Post’s article is worthy of the CIA-generated propaganda spun by the paper at the height of the Cold War-era MOCKINGBIRD.

under-newspaper

The “Fake News” Furor and the Threat of Internet Censorship

By Kevin Reed, December 01 2016

In the weeks since the November 8 election, US media reports on the spread of so-called “fake news” during the presidential campaign have increasingly repeated unsubstantiated pre-election claims that the Russian government hacked into Democratic Party email servers to undermine the campaign of Hillary Clinton. There is more than a whiff of McCarthyism in this crusade against “fake news” on social media and the Internet, with online publications critical of US wars of aggression and other criminal activities being branded as Russian propaganda outlets.

D. Trump

Mr. Trump and Europe. How Would Trump Reshape EU Policies?

By Peter Koenig, December 01 2016

I doubt very much that Mr. Trump can do much for improving the lot of Europe. He shouldn’t even try. He really shouldn’t continue the US tradition of meddling in other countries affairs. This is eventually the task – and the obligation of Europe – not of an outsider. A new Europe has to be built from within, by Europe, for Europe and with the full participation of European citizens – and without any involvement of Washington.

trump élection

Donald Trump: What can go Wrong? “Unlikely to Start a War with Russia”

By William Blum, December 01 2016

That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant. That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant. That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant. What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia. His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of US regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

trumpTrump Refuses to Sever Ties with his Business Empire

By E.P. Milligan, December 01 2016

US President-elect Donald Trump has made clear that he will not sever ties with his vast business empire upon assuming office. The decision underscores the authoritarian and corrupt character of the incoming government and its open contempt for democratic norms.

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Rami Jarrah (who is widely cited as an authority by mainstream Western media) posted the Arabic leaflet dropped by Syrian government forces and the English translation by Human Rights Watch, which has been widely circulated.

I will provide to you my translation of the original Arabic and you judge how reliable the translation by Human Rights Watch is. [Moreover they have shortened the text of the message]

The Arabic says (in full):

“Read and Repeat.  This is the last hope.  Save yourselves.

If you don’t evacuate those areas soon, you shall be finished off (or vanquished or destroyed).

WE have provided you with a safe passage to exit.  Take your decision fast. Save yourselves.

You know that all have abandoned you and left you by yourselves to face your destiny and they won’t provide you with any help.  General Command of the army and armed forces.”

PS The word annihilation is very specific and has an equal Arabic equivalent “Ibadah” which does not appear in the original Arabic.

[The substance of the message is turned upside down in the English translation. It does not mention that the government is providing exit and safe passage to the Al Qaeda rebels.]
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The Fatah movement launched its seventh general congress this week, amid heated speculation about the future of its leader, Mahmoud Abbas. He also heads the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians’ effective government-in-waiting in the occupied territories.

Among those watching closely as events unfold over the next few days in Ramallah is the leadership of Israel. The congress – the first since 2009 – will determine the make up of Fatah’s main representative bodies and may offer clues as to whom is best placed to succeed the 81-year-old Abbas.

There has been speculation that the Palestinian leader may appoint a deputy, in an effort to encourage a peaceful transition of power.

On Sunday, two days before the congress opened, the head of Israeli military intelligence warned that Abbas’ grip on power was weakening and that Israel must prepare for instability and violence during the coming year as successors jostled for position.

According to leaks from a closed forum at Tel Aviv University, Herzl Halevi said: “There will be many factors that undermine Abu Mazen’s [Abbas’] leadership, and Hamas wants to make gains.” He added that Israel would face “a very challenging reality” in the West Bank during 2017.

The run-up to the congress will have done nothing to allay such fears. The meeting of senior Fatah officials took place only after Abbas largely restricted the 1,400 delegates to his own loyalists.

He barred from attending most of those suspected of supporting his chief rival from within Fatah, Mohammed Dahlan, who is currently living in exile in the United Arab Emirates. In recent weeks, Dahlan supporters have faced a wave of repression, including arrests, expulsions from Fatah and blocked salaries.

Opinion polls have consistently shown that roughly two-thirds of Palestinians in the occupied territories want Abbas to resign.

Fear of Hamas

But if Abbas is on the way out, what will the West Bank look like the day after he is gone – and which successor will best serve Israel’s interests?

Menachem Klein, a politics professor from Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, said that the Israeli leadership only started seriously pondering such questions during the past few months, prompted by warnings in February from government minister Zeev Elkin of the PA’s possible collapse.

Several scenarios could unfold. There may be an orderly transition of power overseen by Abbas; an effective coup organised by Dahlan; the takeover of the West Bank by Hamas; or a drawn-out civil war with no contender able to secure the throne.

The worst-case scenario for Israel, according to analysts contacted by Middle East Eye, is that Hamas seizes power in the West Bank, extending its rule from Gaza. That would bring the two Palestinian territories – separated since Hamas’ victory in the 2006 elections – under a unified government.

It could also end the Palestinians’ security cooperation with Israel and expose dozens of Jewish settlements, built in violation of international law, to greater threat of attack.

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, also at Bar Ilan University, said an Israeli army team had been recently established specifically to address this possibility.

“It is in Israel’s clear interest to suppress Hamas and arrest its operatives if they look like they can gain the upper hand,” he said. “Hamas means terror – any other option is less dangerous for Israel.”

Pressure to reoccupy

Yossi Alpher, an adviser to Ehud Barak during his premiership in the late 1990s, said most of the Israeli leadership preferred that Israel not get directly involved in influencing the succession battle. “Experience teaches Israel that it should not interfere in the political affairs of others – if we do, it is almost certain to blow up in our face,” he said.

But as well as the danger posed by Hamas, it was also impossible for Israel to ignore the threat to the settlements from a civil war between armed factions in the West Bank. “If there is chaos, there is a huge potential for us to get dragged in, even against our better judgment.”

If no clear successor emerges, according to Shlomo Brom, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, the Israeli army would in the short term have to reoccupy the West Bank’s cities.

“That would return us to the situation before the Oslo accords, and no one in Israel wants that. The costs are too high in terms of money, manpower and diplomacy,” he said.

Instead, most in the Israeli army and security services prefer a smooth transfer of power by Abbas to ensure that security cooperation with Israel continues. In the past Abbas has called such coordination “sacred”.

The favoured candidate with the Israeli army, according to Klein, is Majid Faraj, the current head of the Palestinian security forces. However, he may struggle to unite Fatah behind him or gain popular legitimacy. He upset many Palestinians earlier this year by boasting of his security services’ success in foiling attacks on Israel.

“Someone like Faraj is not so strong that he can defy Israel or launch a new intifada,” said Klein. “Instead he offers more of the same, and that will allow Israel to keep expanding the settlements.”

Marwan Barghouti, a popular Fatah leader who is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli jail, is strongly opposed because he is seen as ready to confront Israel and demand Palestinian statehood, Klein added.

Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief in the West Bank, has also lost support in Israel, especially for his recent campaign as head of the Palestinian football association to bar from FIFA Israeli clubs based in the settlements.

Knight in shining armour

A further difficulty, observed Klein, was that any heir to Abbas would need to gain a popular mandate and submit to elections – and that would put him on a “collision course” with Israel.

“Israel doesn’t want Palestinians conducting elections or anything that provides the impression of statehood and the trappings of sovereignty,” he said. “Elections would also renew international interest in the Palestinian issue.”

For that reason, there are suspicions that some in the government, including possibly defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, may seek to undermine Abbas or his successor in favour of a strongman like Dahlan, the PA’s former security chief in Gaza.

Alpher noted that the pair met secretly two years ago, and that both are believed to have had business dealings in a failed casino built in the West Bank city of Jericho.

Brom said Lieberman liked Dahlan “because he is seen as willing to collaborate. But support for him has to be covert. If we are seen to embrace anyone, it is the kiss of death.”

According to Alpher, Dahlan may also benefit from the fact that he has the backing of what has come to be known as the Arab Quartet: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“If there is anarchy in the West Bank, Dahlan may be able to ride in like a knight in shining armour on his horse with the Arab Quartet’s support,” he said.

Klein, however, said there were also suspicions on the right about Dahlan’s reliability. “He will be more dependent on Egypt, the Gulf and Jordan, who back and fund him, than on Israel,” he said.

“Remember, he was once an Abbas loyalist, but later turned on him. If he is in power, he could crack down on Hamas or he could cooperate with it. Equally, he could cooperate with Israel, or confront it. He is considered unpredictable.”

Chaos ‘no bad thing’

If no one emerges triumphant, as most analysts expect, then civil war is inevitable.

Inbar said chaos and instability in the occupied territories might be no bad thing, and would echo developments in Syria, Yemen and Libya. This scenario is believed to be increasingly favoured by parts of the far-right, including settler leader Naftali Bennett, the education minister.

“Abbas cannot deliver on the two-state solution,” said Inbar. “Chaos can bring fresh thinking and allow a new paradigm to develop. It may not offer solutions but it will allow Israel in the meantime to manage things in a better way.”

Israel could then cultivate local “clients” in the West Bank.

Inbar said: “The Palestinian national movement failed to produce a clear national identity. The society is still dominated by families who take care of their own. Israel can exploit that.”

Klein said Bennett and others in prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party liked this scenario because it would get rid of the Palestinian Authority. In its place, Israel could establish regional authorities – funded by Europe and the US – in the third of the West Bank currently under Abbas’ formal control.

“These authorities would manage Palestinian affairs locally, while Israel concentrated on annexing most of the West Bank,” he said. “The problem of Palestinian statehood would dissolve.”

In that vein, he noted that government ministers like Tzipi Hotovely were currently lobbying for the annexation of Maaleh Adumim, a large settlement close to Jerusalem.

Klein believed Netanyahu might privately support this option too, but could not be seen to publicly back it.

All the analysts concluded that, whatever scenario emerges after Abbas leaves the stage, reviving the peace process will not be on the agenda.

“The two sides are too far apart on the issues of the Temple Mount [sovereignty over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem] and the return of refugees,” said Alpher. “Israel’s best hope at the moment is for nothing more than a peaceful transition.”

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Since this interview was given, an important event happened, important for world history. Fidel Castro died on 25 November, at the age of 90 (1926 – 2016).

Comandante Castro, a lawyer by education, with a true sense of justice for humanity, has led a Revolution in his native Cuba to free his people from a brutal dictator, murderer and of course, what else, a puppet of the United States, Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel has essentially freed Cuba from 500years of colonialism. Fidel has defied Washington’s multiple attempts to oust him, and more than 600 US secret service attempts to kill him. His Revolution has withstood a brutal, illegal, international blockade, initiated and also brutally enforced by Washington with sanctions against any country in the world that wouldn’t follow the embargo dictate of the US, against his country for almost 60 years – and counting. Fidel’s followers will continue in his spirit fighting against capitalists cum neofascists’ ruthless exploitation

(see also http://www.globalresearch.ca/hasta-siempre-dear-comandante-fidel/5559516).

As a campaign pledge, repeated after his election, Mr. Trump wants to undo President Obama’s agreement for new relations with Cuba. Here is his abject reaction to Fidel’s passing:

“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”

This is to be remembered. Everything that follows during his presidency is to be put in context of that man’s way of thinking. The 45th President of the United States is either completely ignorant or has all the elements of becoming a ruthless ‘dictator for corporate profit’. He is an unreliable rogue. Business and money is what drives him. Humanity is just a tool.

Russia TV24 Question

How would you describe the current political and economic situation in Europe if we take into account the latest events, Trump’s victory for example? How would Trump in the future reshape the EU’s policy?

PK Reply

The current economic situation in Europe is very uneven. There are some countries that are doing better than others. For example, Germany and the Nordic countries are generally better off than the Southern European countries. Germany has benefitted the most from the EU’s common market. But if you look at the benefit of the EU as a whole – because a union should be judged as an entity, not country by country – as a union – which it really isn’t – the EU has done worse than if there would have been no so-called European Union.

This may be difficult to prove, of course, since no study can be done of what would have happened without the union – i.e. what would the countries of Europe have done socioeconomically without the EU.

Why the claim that the sum of the EU is worse than would have been the sum of all individual sovereign EU member countries? – Because the EU was never set up as a union to serve its members equally. It wasn’t even created by the Europeans. Hard to believe, I know. Its creation was the idea of Washington, carried out by the CIA, right after WWII. Down-beaten Europe was to become a vassal for the US, already 70 years back. We have to understand the context, before we can understand what is going wrong in the EU and its equally false euro-based monetary system.

The European Union started by the creation of the Council of Europe (CoE), signed and opened in London on 5 May 1949, covering 47 countries, including the territories of today’s 28 EU member nations which currently amount to about 820 million people. It is clearly an Anglo-Zion idea, brainchild of the CIA, where the UK played patsy for the US, as they still do today.

That’s also why BREXIT was such a surprise. Nobody expected people actually standing on their own feet, asking to gain back their sovereignty. The UK as backbone of the ‘establishment’ and a Washington mole in the EU, was taken as a given.

The CoE was the precursor of today’s European Union. The idea was born out of the Washington instigated WWII – planned and prepared already in the early 1930s, as the US economy was under deep depression, the result of the 1928 banking collapse. Building arms was then and is today an efficient engine for our sick economy – truly an economy of destruction and death – that eventually serves only the rich and powerful. Because after destruction you have to rebuild. And the winners, those who have the armament and weapons to destroy (and win), have also the industry and machinery to rebuild. For them – the US – war is a double whammy.

The CoE was followed by the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the first big transatlantic market. In 1955 the Rockefeller-led Bilderberg Society – the semi-secret home base of the top movers and shakers, those that pull the strings on the US Presidents, like the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, other Wall Street (WS) banksters and CEOs of the war industry, pharmaceuticals, ag-corporations, like Monsanto – and last but not least of the six giant Anglo-Zionist media corporations – this Bilderberg Society pleaded already in 1955 for a common European currency. In 1958 emerged the Treaty of Rome, of which people falsely say it was the beginning of the European Union. This, and all the future treaties all the way to Maastricht (1992) and Lisbon (2007) were infiltrated and influenced by US agents.

What the US really wanted out of WWII is that Hitler defeats the Soviet Union, because of a pathological anti-socialist / communist sentiment, prevailing in the United States as of this day. So – as Washington usually does, they danced on two weddings, i.e. with the one hand they financed Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union via the Bank for International Settlement, the BIS in Basle Switzerland, created in 1930 to monitor German WWI reparation payments. In Basle, it is conveniently located at the border to Germany. The funds arrived from the FED via Wall Street (WS) banks at the BIS and were transferred to the German Reichsbank (then the German Central Bank). The President of the BIS at that time was Thomas McKittrick (1940-46), a Rockefeller confidant. He was a former WS exec and worked in close collaboration with the FED and WS. All this is documented in books, one of them is called The Tower of Basle.

Had Hitler defeated the Soviet Union, his army would have been weak enough to be beaten easily by the remaining Allied Forces. In fact, as it is, the Soviet Union defeated Hitler’s army, and the US / UK came in towards the end of the war to ‘liberate’ – as they proclaim themselves, the various occupied territories, including France, and of course Germany. But the winner was clearly the Soviet Union – which lost 25 to 30million people in this war, a tremendous sacrifice for which the west should be forever grateful.

To continue their plan of creating Europe as a vassal of Washington, now Plan B kicked in: A Cold war with the Soviet Union had to be created. This continued justifying the US very lucrative arms race. Building up the Cold War went in parallel with rebuilding Europe with an entirely US funded Marshall Plan, then about US$ 13 billion (today about 130 billion equivalent) – which bound the European countries together through a common reconstruction fund. The World Bank, alias Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the IMF were created (1944 – the Breton Woods Organizations) to respectively manage the Marshall Plan Funds and to monitor and control the so-called ‘hard’ currencies’ adherence of the then also US imposed gold standard.

Europe was never meant to become a political sovereign entity, like the US. Lest Europe might have become an autonomous competitor to the self-styled US hegemon. It follows that the creation of a common EU currency the euro, was shaped and structured exactly according to the US-dollar.

A group of countries that has no binding constitution, no common political or even economic goals, no solidarity, can never sustain a common currency. Therefore, the EU as well as the Euro are doomed to fail. It is but a question of time. This is the opinion of renowned economists, including Joseph Stiglitz.

Under these circumstances, I doubt very much that Mr. Trump can do much for improving the lot of Europe. He shouldn’t even try. He really shouldn’t continue the US tradition of meddling in other countries affairs. This is eventually the task – and the obligation of Europe – not of an outsider. A new Europe has to be built from within, by Europe, for Europe and with the full participation of European citizens – and without any involvement of Washington.

Back to Mr. Trump – there is indeed a lot of uncertainty at this time. However, the 45th President–elect is apparently backtracking on some of his extreme rightwing appointees, especially those that may have bent over backwards to please Israel and AIPAC. It looks like former NY mayor Giuliani is no longer on the shortlist to become Secretary of State – or Attorney General. But we’ll see.

On Syria, an apparent good news is that Mr. Trumps son reportedly met last month in Paris with Randa Kassis, a Syrian politician who strongly supports Russian intervention in her country. This may be an indication that the President-elect is serious wanting to partner with Russia and eliminate the US created IS and its affiliated terror groups, and freeing Syria and the democratically elected Regime of Bashar al-Assad from the ruthless claws of the empire. But the question always remains – how much freedom to act does Mr. Trump really have?

Russia TV24 Question

Which countries in your view economically benefit from being in the Eurozone
and which do not?

PK Reply

As I said before, Germany has emerged as the ‘winner’ if there is a ‘winner’ in the EU, and some of the Nordic countries. Clear losers are the EU’s southern countries; and this on purpose. They are bordering the highly strategic Mediterranean Sea; they are also NATO countries and must be kept under tight control. If they are economically weak, and of course not under a socialist government, they can much better be controlled and manipulated. Austerity brings poverty and poor people are extremely vulnerable, as their survival depends on earning just enough for the basic livelihood of their families. Poor people have no energy nor time to fight for their rights. That’s a built-in axiom of the austerity programs.

Russia TV24 Question
French Jean-Luc Schaffauser recently said “the Eurozone stopped functioning and
there are no prospects anymore”. What do you think?

PK Reply
I fully agree with this statement. The EU as it ‘dysfunctions’ today is doing increasing harm to the nations of Europe – more austerity, more misery, more unemployment, which is always a sign of ultra-capitalist engendered economic decline, a neoliberal-fascist take-over. We are living today in a fascist economy. The only way out of it, is dismantling the EU, and returning to sovereign national currencies.

And possibly at some point in the future – rethink the idea of a common Europe, but under completely different circumstances – and not under the dictate of Washington. It will require honest, non-corruptible European statesmen- and women. In fact, it is our hitherto destructive generation’s duty vis-à-vis the up-and-coming younger generations, those who will lead our civilization ahead, to dismantle the EU and the euro.

Russia TV24 Question
What is the reason for the economic crisis in the Eurozone? Some experts say this is a matter of the whole system and the rules under which the EU is functioning. The ECB monetary policy does not correlate with different economic policies of the EU members, e.g. the heads of JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley claimed one of the reasons for that is Brexit and this might lead to a collapse of the Eurozone.

PK Reply

Yes BREXIT could indeed inspire other EU members to decide exiting the EU. Next in line could be Italy, or France.

Take France – Mr. François Fillon, the new candidate of the French extreme right, would bring more austerity and more hardship to France. He has already said so. He may be Washington’s candidate, as was Sarkozy at his time. He has been shoved in from outside, mysteriously ousting Mr. Alain Juppé, in the French Primaries of the Republican Party. He will, thus, become the prime opponent of Marine Le Pen, the current frontrunner for the Presidential elections next spring. Marine Le Pen wants to exit the EU, the Eurozone and NATO. This, of course, is a no-no for the Atlantists and Washington. They don’t want to take such a risk. France has still relatively much social capital to be stolen by the neo-fascist oligarchs, like the health system, the pension funds, the workers relatively long leaves and short workweeks – all achievements of the syndicates and paid for by the workers – could be taken away by unbridled privatization under a Fillon Presidency.

Let’s not even talk about the countrywide austerity programs he would bring to the French populace. And remember, austerity always comes with strings attached: debt – debt that needs to be serviced by interest and amortization, taking away some of the workers’ output, shifting it to the banksters and other oligarchs, and weighing down people’s mobility with the albatross of debt. Greece is a glaring example.

However, as mentioned before, there is Marine Le Pen, the ‘independent’ National Front (‘Front National’ – FN) candidate. The British Telegraph reports that “Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader of the Front National, “can win” France’s presidency next year, [as] the country’s shell-shocked mainstream Right predicted”, adding that  “Donald Trump’s surprise triumph has thrown all political certainty into doubt.” – And that’s precisely why Mr. Fillon had to be ‘pushed in’ at the far right of the Republican Party. On domestic issues, he is pretty much in line with Marine Le Pen, but he does not vouch to exit the EU, euro and NATO. Therefore, he is slanted to defeat Le Pen in a second round.

Ms. Le Pen’s key campaign promises would be a blessing for the vast majority of European electors- though not for their mostly undemocratically elected leaders, but for the electorate – exiting the EU and the Eurozone, as well as exiting NATO. For most Europeans, including parliamentarians, although the MSM ignore them, getting rid of NATO would be a benediction, as it would stop or largely diminish the constant, counter-productive and illegal threat on Russia, it would diminish the risk of a nuclear annihilation of mankind and it would open the doors for Europeans to reestablish the natural partnership with Russia that has been a tradition for hundreds of years, before the self-anointed exceptional nation’s ascension to world tyranny.

Russia TV24 Question
There are more and more right-oriented politicians in the EU. Why? At the same time, Mme. Merkel is going to run for her fourth term in the next elections (Fall 2017). What would it lead
to?

PK Reply
True, there are ever more right wing politicians in the EU, actually heading EU members. There is currently no country that comes to mind that has a true left-wing leader. None. You can imagine that this is not just a coincidence. This is a clear sign that democracy has ceased to exist, that Democracy remains a dream of Greek philosophers some 2000 years back, and that elections are fabricated by the ‘new’ western fascism, especially by the unlimited and unrestrained lie-propaganda of the Anglo-Zionist MSM. Case in point is the recent ‘soft’ and hardly noticed parliamentary coup in Spain. The neoliberal President Rajoy, hated by at least three quarters of the population for the poverty and misery he has brought to Spain during his previous term from 2011-2015. See this election analysis http://www.globalresearch.ca/spain-the-dice-are-cast-another-parliamentary-coup-instigated-from-outside/5553699.

Interestingly, shortly after President Obama’s fare well visit to Berlin, during which he had extensive talks with Angela Merkel, she emerged announcing her fourth-time candidacy for the Chancellorship of Germany. Obama called her the new leader of Europe. I wonder what he promised her and how he explained to her that she will win the elections, while two thirds of the population oppose her.

Let us also be reminded that Germany still has no Peace Agreement after WWII. Germany’s status remains one of ‘Armistice’ in which it is clearly pointed out that the Chancellor shall never oppose the will of Washington. There it is. What better puppet Obama could have selected to continue with this absurd term in the Armistice Agreement, which currently acts as the German Constitution.

The agreement is being applied as it pleases Washington. For example, it also says that no military aggression shall ever emanate from German territory – which is outright baloney. Ramstein, in the center of Germany, is one of the most important US military bases in Europe. Most drone attacks in Pakistan and the Middle East emanate from Ramstein. Also, the German Luftwaffe has quietly joined the French, UK, US and NATO in bombing Syria and Iraq. A future German Chancellor with backbone might want to revisit this Armistice Agreement, in view of converting it into a Peace Agreement, giving Germany full sovereignty which would be a first step of liberating Europe from the fangs of the American vulture — ehhh, I mean eagle.

It depends now on what Mr. Trump has in mind, when he pledges no more US interventionism. Does he mean to give Europe back to the Europeans? That would be a strong feather in Mr. Trump’s hat. – But would those who pull the strings on the western marionette leaders allow it?

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media, TeleSUR, TruePublica, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

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The current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, has a history of racism and can be described as a neo-fascist. A more pleasant label is Hindu nationalist but that essentially means the same.

It now turns out that Modis extremism in not confined to the nationalist bend but includes some crazy economic ideas.

Modi decided to demonetize the country from one day to another. Every bank note valued at over US$7 was taken out of circulation. The rather crazy idea behind this is to move all monetary transactions to some electronic money systems and to then tax each and every transaction. All other kind of taxes would be abolished.

Only a lunatic without any knowledge of actual economic issues can support such a move.

The predictable result of the sudden demonetization is a liquidity crunch. There suddenly is only half the amount of money in circulation than before. Bills can not be paid, salaries are withheld, services are unused because there is no money to pay for them. The government wants to move the people to open up bank accounts but the banking infrastructure in India is rudimentary, the systems running are old and the software inadequate to handle the masses. Mobs Lock Up Bankers as Pay Day Turns Pain Day in India is a current Bloomberg headline.

The protests have not reached their climax yet but expect some serious riots in India over the next weeks and months should Modi continue on this path. It will be even worse when, in a second step, the new tax system is introduced.

Taxing all transactions is digressive. The poor will end up up paying more than the rich as all kinds of property taxes and the like will end. Estimates say that the tax rate would have to be 4 to 6% on each monetary transfer to be able to eliminate all other taxes.

Manufacturing, which builds complex products from a number of pre-processed parts and inputs, will end up highly taxed. Each screw in a part that goes into a car will have been taxed when transferred from the steelmaker to the wholesale steel deal to the screw maker to the part manufacturer to the car manufacturer to the consumer. With several percents of taxes on each of these transaction this will end up as a very expensive car. There are products which easily include a dozen such stages or more.

“Sin taxes” on alcohol, gasoline and other socially or environmentally harmful stuff will be missing as regulatory instruments. Custom issues and double taxation agreements with other countries will be highly problematic.

The Indian bureaucracy is not the most capable in the world. The banking infrastructure, especially in the still mostly rural parts of India, is only sparse. It is practically impossible to have such a brutal, large conversion of the whole economy without major breakdowns.

The first real economic trouble will be noted soon. Liquidity crunches are usually followed by sharp drops in productivity and general economic activity. India until recently had a fast growing economy. It is very likely to now go into recession.

Taxes on a currency will lead to a shadow economy where people will used other means to pay, especially for small daily transfers. The new currency will probably be cigarettes or whatever can be bargained. The tax income will therefore likely be lower than estimated as the use of official money, then electronic money, in daily life will decline.

Modi was in favor of a transaction tax economy since at least 2013 though it did not play a role in his campaign and policy speeches. The people are unprepared for it and the large bumps that will come with its implementation.

My fear though is that Modi will do the usual nationalist / fascist trick when problems with the economy occur. He is unlikely to give up on his aims.  He will rather look for an enemy and accuse it of causing the problems. Divert the peoples attention by a war on – take your choice: Pakistan, China, Muslims in general, any local opposition or whatever. There will always be someone to blame.

So far Modi had a rather successful run as Premier. His tax project may well ruin that. Given his background his solution will likely be to seek a conflict. In a nuclear India with a nuclear arch-enemy Pakistan nearby that is some worrisome perspective.

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Trump Contradicts Some Negative Images of Himself

December 1st, 2016 by Michael Averko

The outgoing and at times smug US President Barack Obama, suggests a superior foreign policy knowledge to his successor Donald Trump. This impression matches much of the US mass media’s take. That perception is an oversimplification of what has been evident.

Recently, Obama erroneously referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a former head of the KGB. Within a month’s time, Obama repeated that fallacy. This error received little if any follow-up in US mass media, where heavy handed Putin and Russia bashing is the norm. Obama’s gaffes get comparatively downplayed, as Trump is inaccurately portrayed as an ignorant oaf.

This past November 21, MSNBC’s overly partisan Rachel Maddow, falsely claimed that Trump isn’t a good sport, when it comes to taking satire, unlike other US presidents who’ve been targeted for such treatment. (BTW, the much maligned RT has a number of hosts, who’re far more objective than Maddow and some of her other MSNBC counterparts, including the Democratic Party connected Lawrence O’Donnell.) In actuality, Trump has previously acknowledged good satire directed against him, inclusive of his having appeared on NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL).

Maddow’s reference to the SNL opening skit of November 19, highlights her questionable sense of good humor. Trump and others are perfectly within reason to believe that particular segment to be a poor example of political comedy. In that instance, Trump’s Campaign Manager, Kellyanne Conway, is poorly depicted by someone who looks and acts nothing like the person in question. Playing the role of Trump, the anti-Trump actor Alec Baldwin, portrays a fool who doesn’t know what ISIS is.

Mind you that Obama referred to ISIS as the JV (Junior Varsity) team – something that the then Obama appointed Defense Intelligence Agency Director, Michael Flynn, took issue with. (The Democratic affiliated Flynn went over to Trump’s campaign and has been appointed to the national security adviser spot.)

Foreign policy ability takes varying forms. There are those who’ve studied the field at length (keenly knowing numerous particulars), with a track record of getting things wrong. In stark comparison, there are others who can make more accurate assessments with less knowledge of the specifics. The latter instance is typical of the successful corporate executives with vast projects to lookover. With only so much time in a day, these power driven individuals understand the need to be as accurately concise as possible, for the purpose of achieving all of their objectives. On a number of foreign policy issues, Trump has stumped the establishment.

In one debate during the Republican Party selection process, Trump was chastised by his rivals (notably Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) for saying that he would be neutral in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Trump calmly replied by noting the need to be as objective as possible – adding that his support for the Jewish state is strong. This life long New Yorkerhas a Jewish son-in-law who he’s close to. Fearing little chance of being reasonably called anti-Israeli, Trump has enough sense to recognize the importance of trying to be objective (as US president) on a topic like Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Without a thorough overview, Trump likely might not know how to best defend his comments about Russia, which are more reasonably understanding of the Russian mainstream than much (if not all) of the Republican and Democratic establishments. With further study and the appropriate team, he can easily follow-up on that matter. As previously noted, Trump is under some high profile influence to harden his views on Russia. On this subject, it remains to be seen how he’ll proceed.

In some influential circles, the role of UN ambassador has been somewhat belittled as a messenger kind of position. A rejoinder on that emphasis notes that the tone set by the UN ambassador helps to underscore the attitude of the government that he/she represents. The Obama appointed UN Ambassador Samantha Power is a prime example of high horsed hypocrisy, with an arrogantly ignorant demeanor.

For that UN position, Trump was said to have considered Hawaii Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She would have been a good choice. Having her in the Trump administration would give the appearance of a more diverse presidency. Gabbard became disgruntled with the Democratic Party establishment, to the point of supporting Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. She is a decorated Iraq war veteran. Her foreign policy views mesh well with Trump’s. Gabbard is pro-Israel, while seeking to work with Russia against ISIS and opposing the advocacy of seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.

Trump’s UN ambassador selection of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is a solid move for the Republican Party and the incoming president. Haley is viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party. She is considered a success as governor. Haley’s new role will provide a foreign policy background to broaden her government experience.

During the Republican presidential nominating process, Haley pointedly opposed Trump. Her position in the Trump administration will serve to put a lid on such manner. South Carolina Lieutenant Governor and Trump supporter Henry McMaster, is in line to replace Haley as governor.

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That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant.

That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant.

That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant.

What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia. His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of US regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

Even more so is his appointment of General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Flynn dined last year in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT (Russia Today), the Russian state’s English-language, leftist-leaning TV channel. Flynn now carries the stigma in the American media as an individual who does not see Russia or Putin as the devil. It is truly remarkable how nonchalantly American journalists can look upon the possibility of a war with Russia, even a nuclear war.

(I can now expect a barrage of emails from my excessively politically-correct readers about Flynn’s alleged anti-Islam side. But that, even if true, is irrelevant to this discussion of avoiding a war with Russia.)

I think American influence under Trump could also inspire a solution to the bloody Russia-Ukraine crisis, which is the result of the US overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to further advance the US/NATO surrounding of Russia; after which he could end the US-imposed sanctions against Russia, which hardly anyone in Europe benefits from or wants; and then – finally! – an end to the embargo against Cuba. What a day for celebration that will be! Too bad that Fidel won’t be around to enjoy it.

We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton would do this, but I think there’s at least a chance with the Donald. And those three heroes may now enjoy feeling at least a modicum of hope. Picture a meeting of them all together on some future marvelous day with you watching it on a video.

Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam because of any fear of being called anti-Islam. He’s repulsed enough by ISIS to want to destroy them, something that can’t always be said about Mr. Obama.

International trade deals, written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of their bosses, with little concern about the rest of us, may have rougher sailing in the Trump White House than is usually the case with such deals.

The mainstream critics of Trump foreign policy should be embarrassed, even humbled, by what they supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Instead, what bothers them about the president-elect is his lack of desire to make the rest of the world in America’s image. He appears rather to be more concerned with the world not making America in its image.

In the latest chapter of Alice in Trumpland he now says that he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton, that he has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he had vowed to withdraw the United States, and that he’s no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea. So whatever fears you may have about certain of his expressed weird policies … just wait … they may fall by the wayside just as easily; although I still think that on a personal level he’s a [two-syllable word: first syllable is a synonym for a donkey; second syllable means “an opening”]

Trump’s apparently deep-seated need for approval may continue to succumb poorly to widespread criticism and protests. Poor little Donald … so powerful … yet so vulnerable.

The Trump dilemma, as well as the whole Hillary Clinton mess, could have probably been avoided if Bernie Sanders had been nominated. That large historical “if” is almost on a par with the Democrats choosing Harry Truman to replace Henry Wallace in 1944 as the ailing Roosevelt’s vice-president. Truman brought us a charming little thing called the Cold War, which in turn gave us McCarthyism. But Wallace, like Sanders, was just a little too damn leftist for the refined Democratic Party bosses.

State-owned media: The good, the bad, and the ugly

On November 16, at a State Department press briefing, department spokesperson John Kirby was having one of his frequent adversarial dialogues with Gayane Chichakyan, a reporter for RT (Russia Today); this time concerning US charges of Russia bombing hospitals in Syria and blocking the UN from delivering aid to the trapped population. When Chichakyan asked for some detail about these charges, Kirby replied: “Why don’t you ask your defense ministry?”

GK: Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

GK: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government?

KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.

MATTHEW LEE (Associated Press): Let me –- hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of us are, so it’s -– she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned -– from a state-owned –

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

LEE: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

……

KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

One has to wonder if State Department spokesperson Kirby knows that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about RT, declared: “The Russians have opened an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive.”

I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the UK, broadcasting in the US and all around the world.

Or the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described by Wikipedia as follows: “The corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas … and is well regarded for quality and reliability as well as for offering educational and cultural programming that the commercial sector would be unlikely to supply on its own.”

There’s also Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Radio Liberty (Central/Eastern Europe), and Radio Marti (Cuba); all (US) state-owned, none “independent”, but all deemed worthy enough by the United States to feed to the world.

And let’s not forget what Americans have at home: PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio), which would have a near-impossible time surviving without large federal government grants. How independent does this leave them? Has either broadcaster ever unequivocally opposed a modern American war? There’s good reason NPR has long been known as National Pentagon Radio. But it’s part of American media’s ideology to pretend that it doesn’t have any ideology.

As to the non-state American media … There are about 1400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam while they were happening, or shortly thereafter? Or even opposed to any two of these seven wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe (February 18, 1968) surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”. Has the phrase “invasion of Vietnam” ever appeared in the US mainstream media?

In 2003, leading cable station MSNBC took the much-admired Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq. Mr. Kirby would undoubtedly call MSNBC “independent”.

If the American mainstream media were officially state-controlled, would they look or sound significantly different when it comes to US foreign policy?

Soviet observation: “The only difference between your propaganda and our propaganda is that you believe yours.”

On November 25, the Washington Post ran an article entitled: “Research ties ‘fake news’ to Russia.” It’s all about how sources in Russia are flooding American media and the Internet with phoney stories designed as “part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders”.

“The sophistication of the Russian tactics,” the article says, “may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on ‘fake news’.”

The Post states that the Russian tactics included “penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.” (Heretofore this had been credited to Wikileaks.)

The story is simply bursting with anti-Russian references:

  • An online magazine header – “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”
  • “the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”
  • “more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”
  • “stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”
  • “The Russian campaign during this election season … worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with ‘buzzy’ content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.”
  • “Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience”
  • “They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”
  • “Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the ‘Brexit’ departure of Britain from the European Union.”
  • “Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports.”
  • “a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia”

A former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is quoted saying he was “struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.” McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics. “They don’t try to win the argument. It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.” [Cynicism? Heavens! What will those Moscow fascists/communists think of next?]

The Post did, however, include the following: “RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election.” RT was quoted: “It is the height of irony that an article about ‘fake news’ is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insinuations that the network has originated even a single ‘fake story’ related to the US election.”

It must be noted that the Washington Post article fails to provide a single example showing how the actual facts of a specific news event were rewritten or distorted by a Russian agency to produce a news event with a contrary political message. What then lies behind such blatant anti-Russian propaganda? In the new Cold War such a question requires no answer. The new Cold War by definition exists to discredit Russia simply because it stands in the way of American world domination. In the new Cold War the political spectrum in the mainstream media runs the gamut from A to B.

Cuba, Fidel, Socialism … Hasta la victoria siempre!

The most frequent comment I’ve read in the mainstream media concerning Fidel Castro’s death is that he was a “dictator”; almost every heading bore that word. Since the 1959 revolution, the American mainstream media has routinely referred to Cuba as a dictatorship. But just what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is (see the preceding essays), if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries. The Cuban president is chosen by the parliament, The National Assembly of People’s Power. Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since all candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have private corporations to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. Did we need the latest example of this travesty of democracy to convince us to finally get rid of it? If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba a dictatorship because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement of five years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.

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The US corporate media, its strings pulled by the modern version of the Central Intelligence Agency’s old Operation MOCKINGBIRD media influencing operation, is laughably accusing Russia of generating «fake news» to influence the outcome of the American presidential election. In a November 24, 2016, article in the CIA-connected Washington Post, reporter Craig Timberg reported:

«Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human ‘trolls,’ and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers».

The Post’s article is worthy of the CIA-generated propaganda spun by the paper at the height of the Cold War-era MOCKINGBIRD.

Contrary to what the Post reported about right-wing accounts of Hillary Clinton’s ties to «a shadowy cabal of global financiers, the vanquished Democratic presidential nominee and her husband, via the slush fund known as the Clinton Foundation, was closely linked to a variety of «shadowy global financiers», including those who serve as executives of Goldman Sachs and J P Morgan Chase. The Clinton cabal was more at home in the gatherings of the secretive syndicates of the Bilderberg Group, Bohemian Club, and the Council on Foreign Relations than they were at labor union and student meetings.

The Post was clearly fed its poorly-sourced and anecdotal-based article on Russian «fake news» by the usual suspects of Russia-bashers and CIA mouthpieces, including The Daily Beast; former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul; Rand Corporation; George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs; the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia; and a website called «PropOrNot.com» or «Is It Propaganda Or Not?», which is linked not only to US-funded anti-Russia websites but also to conveyors of CIA disinformation like Snopes.com. The Post article is nothing more than an advertisement for PropOrNot.com, which bills itself as a «Propaganda Identification Service, since 2016».

The media influencing operation targeting Russia appears to be an outgrowth of the US State Department’s Counter-Information Team of the Bureau of International Information Programs. The team, established under the George W. Bush administration, was a resurrection of the Cold War-era US Information Agency’s (USIA) Bureau of Information, which was designed to counter «Soviet» disinformation. The truth of the matter was that many of the news reports from TASS, Radio Moscow, and Novosti, branded as «Soviet disinformation» by USIA, were, in fact, truthful reports on CIA covert operations, including political assassinations, biological warfare, and weapons and narcotics smuggling. Today, the media mouthpieces for the CIA and Soros replace Soviet-era media outlets as their main targets for derision with RT television and Sputnik News.

In 2013, Amazon signed a $600 million contract with the CIA to provide cloud computing services to the agency. Amazon’s owner, Jeff Bezos, also happens to own The Washington Post. Considering the long close relationship between the newspaper and the CIA, the Post is the last media outlet that should be writing about fake news. In 1981, the Post published a fake news story about a 7-year old heroin addict named «Jimmy». Not only was the story fake, but the Post’s assistant managing editor, Bob Woodward of Watergate infamy, submitted the fake Jimmy story to the Pulitzer Prize award committee. The Post reporter who wrote the piece, Janet Cooke, did receive a Pulitzer but had to return it after the story was deemed to be fake. Cooke was fired by the paper but Woodward, a longtime US intelligence mouthpiece, kept his job. So much for The Washington Post and fake news.

In its piece on «fake news», the Post linked to a «blacklist» of alleged «fake news sites» maintained by the mysterious PropOrNot.com. A November 25, 2016, article in Fortune magazine by Mathew Ingram rightfully criticized the Post’s reliance on PropOrNot.com for its story. Ingram wrote: «PropOrNot’s Twitter account, which tweets and retweets anti-Russian sentiments from a variety of sources, has only existed since August of this year. And an article announcing the launch of the group on its website is dated last month».

It is very likely that PropOrNot.com is a creation of The Washington Post’s cloud computing business partner, the CIA. PropOrNot.com calls itself a group of «concerned American citizens with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including professional experience in computer science, statistics, public policy, and national security affairs». There are more than enough CIA employees who possess such «professional experience».

PropOrNot.com published a list that would make disgraced Senator Joseph McCarthy, the purveyor of «red lists» of Communists in the 1950s, very proud. PropOrNot.com lists 200 sites, which it claims are «routine peddlers of Russian propaganda». On the list are Strategic Culture.org, globalresearch.ca, drudgereport.com, counterpunch.com, wikileaks.com, wikileaks.org, wikispooks.com. zerohedge.com, and truthdig.com. RT.com and Sputniknews.com also appear on the list. Not on the list are media outlets that have notoriously engaged in fake news reporting. These include The New York Times, USA Today, NBC News, CBS News, The New Republic, CNN, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Outrageously, the blacklist includes USSLIBERTYVETERANS.org, a website maintained by survivors of the willful and unprovoked 1967 Israeli air and naval attack on the US intelligence ship «USS Liberty» in the eastern Mediterranean. The attack killed 34 American Navy sailors and intelligence personnel and the website, in part, is dedicated to their memory. The inclusion of the Liberty veterans’ website strongly suggests the involvement of pro-Israeli shills, all neoconservatives, who nest within a number non-profit think tanks in Washington, DC and may be associated with PropOrNot.com.

The inclusion of some white nationalist «hate sites» on the PropOrNot.com list is reminiscent of the tactics of the misnamed «Southern Poverty Law Center» (SPLC) in Montgomery, Alabama. The center is neither «Southern» or suffering from poverty since it has $175 million in the bank and owns two buildings in Montgomery, both of which have been dubbed by critics as «Poverty Palaces». The Washington Post often quotes SPLC officials in attacking president-elect Donald Trump and his advisers.

PropOrNot.com utilizes a very subjective methodology to come up with its black list: «it does not matter whether the sites listed here are being knowingly directed and paid by Russian intelligence officers, or whether they even knew they were echoing Russian propaganda at any particular point: If they meet these criteria, they are at the very least acting as bona-fide ‘useful idiots’ of the Russian intelligence services, and are worthy of further scrutiny». And who does PropOrNot.com propose for placing other websites on its blacklist and putting them under «further scrutiny?» Perhaps they want the CIA, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, or US Cyber Command to engage in harassment in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Other alleged «Russian propaganda» websites included on the blacklist are infowars.com, intrepidreport.com, intellihub.com, informationclearinghouse.info, corbettreport.com, moonofalabama.org, floridasunpost.com, opednews.com, oilgeopolitics.com, gatesofvienna.net, blackagendareport.com, mintpressnews.com, ahtribune.com, thefreethoughtproject.com, consortiumnews.com, washingtonsblog.com, asia-pacificresearch.com, filmsforaction.com (which advances the rights of Native Americans), thirdworldtraveler.com, and activistpost.com.

Many of the blacklisted websites have something in common: they supported Trump for president. The Washington Post heartily endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, which makes the blacklist appear to be, in part, nothing more than sour grapes on the part of the Post and its unnamed «experts» working for PropOrNot.com.

PropOrNot.com also managed to salt its list with a few obvious fake news websites, including www.superstation95.com, which purports to be a New York FM radio station; baltimoregazette.com; and veteranstoday.com. This has the effect of tarnishing the legitimate sites on the list by associating them with fabulists and cyber-grifters.

Two members of the Ronald Reagan administration, Director of the Office of Management and Budget David Stockman (davidstockmanscontracorner.com) and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy Paul Craig Roberts (paulcraigroberts.org) find their websites on the blacklist. Also blacklisted is former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (ronpaulinstitute.org).

The blacklist highlighted by The Washington Post appears to be more of a censorship target list developed for the not-to-be Hillary Clinton administration. For the Post to engage in blacklisting other press outlets merely because it does not care for their news content is shameful beyond belief. If any outlet should be ordered to cease its operations for not acting in the public interest, it is The Washington Post for grossly distorting the news and misleading the public from the end of World War II to the present day.

If one wants «fake news» the intelligence-corporate complex is the place to go. From corporate media reports about bogus Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the Pentagon’s hiring of British public relations firm Bell Pottinger to create fake news stories about terrorist attacks in Iraq to the use of a group called the «White Helmets» that pumps out fake stories regarding the Syrian government, the corporate media is full of «fake news» fed to it by an omnipresent US intelligence-run psychological warfare infrastructure.

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When Teams Perish: Death and Football

December 1st, 2016 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

“The pain is hard to take. Chapecoense was the biggest source of happiness in the city. Many in the town are crying.”—Ivan Tozzo, Chapecoense Vice President, The Guardian, Nov 29, 2016

Air disasters inflicted on football, soccer teams, or sporting teams in general, do have their tragic role to play in sporting history. The devastatingly lethal destruction of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense on Tuesday in a chartered plane crash outside Medellín, Colombia, was far from the most notable, though it has been one of the more spectacular ones of late.

In 1949, 22 members of the glorious Torino Club lost their lives in the crash of their Fiat airplane. The aircraft had ploughed into a mountain peak outside Turin, leaving supporters, and the country in general, in spiritual tatters.

The demise of Il Grande Torino, led by the supremely gifted Valentino Mazzola, was even more shocking given their sheer dominance of the sport after spending time in the shadow of Internazionale, Juventus and Bologna. From 1945 to 1949, Torino won four consecutive Scudetti. Most of the side’s first team were also members of national side.

For those caring to make the trek to the 300 year old Basilica of Superga, a marble plaque will greet them which, in translation, reads as: “Torino Football Club/ In memory of its comrades the glory of Italian sport and those who died with them in a tragic air disaster.” In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the national team decided to avoid air travel altogether in travelling to Brazil for the 1950 World Cup, opting for the longer sea route.

England, and more specifically Manchester, faced similar paroxysms of grief after the crash of a plane carrying the Manchester United team in 1958. Of the 44 people on the ill fated flight of February 6, 23 died, including eight players and, always the cruel collateral, eight journalists.

Sprightly, dashing and youthful, the Busby Babes, a term coined after Sir Matt Busby, won league titles in 1956 and 1957. They were on their way from a quarter-final European Cup triumph against Red Star Belgrade on home soil. Among the dead were Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor.

As Harry Gregg would recall, “There was no screaming, no sounds, only the terrible shearing of metal. Something cracked by skull like a hard-boiled egg. I was hit again at the front. The salty taste of blood was in my mouth. I was afraid to put my hands to my head.”

There are always gradations of grief. The fate of Chapecoense was made all the more acute given its own road of success, taking the high road in rather humble fashion to the Copa Sudamericana. Chalking up remarkable feats against such established names as Argentinean sides Independiente and San Lorenzo drew even greater interest in the country. Here was a side worth rooting for.

The issue of whole teams vanishing in accidents is not unique to football. Professional ice hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was devastated in the crash of 2011, and still haunts that club’s history. Other team codes have suffered similar fates in the age of air travel.

The shattering effect is compounded by the sense of total grief, the collective gathering of lives in one event. The fact that football is communal, with its rituals binding and lasting, makes the grief richer, and more shocking. In such loss, it is not merely blood that is shed.

Plínio David de Nes Filho, president of Chapecoense’s guiding committee, spoke to Bom Dia Brasil about the fraternal ties, ones that stretched into the community. “It was not just a group founded on mutual respect; it was a family. We lived in harmony, with great happiness. Before boarding the flight, they said they were going to turn their dreams into reality. The dream ended this morning.”

But these deaths will, in time, be assimilated into the folklore of Chapecoense. After such catastrophe, there are only a few responses short of the logistical point of rebuilding: to mythologise, to remember, and to wonder what might have been.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

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These two top officials behind major US wars (Iran/Afghanistan and Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos) and regime change (against Allende, Chile) will speak at the first of a new event, The Nobel Peace Prize Forum Oslo, created by the Nobel Institute in Oslo. More here.

The leaders of the two institutions declare that they are proud to have succeeded in getting these two diplomats to Norway – and the media of course will be there. The event is sponsored by the California-based company InCircl – a marketing and mobile payment company.

The university rector is dr. med. and participant at Bilderberg world elite power group in 2011 Ole Petter Ottersen and you can write him at [email protected]

These two experts on warfare and interventionism will – Orwellian style – speak about “The United States and World Peace After The Presidential Election”.

This is the country that, since 1980, has intervened violently in Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosova/Serbia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, i.e. 14 Muslim countries. It has some 630 base facilities in 130+ countries. It has its US Special Forces (SOF) in 133 countries.

It has used nuclear weapons without apology and owns the second largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

The US stands for about 40% of the world’s military expenditures, is the world’s leading arms exporter and has killed more people than anybody else since 1945. It’s the master of (imprecise) drone strikes. It presently supports Saudi Arabia’s bestial war on Yemen and conducts a military build-up in Asia and the Pacific planning, as it seems, for what looks like a future confrontation with China. And not with terribly positive results in its Middle East policies since 1945.

So with all these credentials, please tell us about world peace!

The U.S. should be seen as quite incapable of peace-making – not the least thanks to Dr. Kissinger (now 93) who is associated with major “war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offences against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture” in places such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Timor, and Chile as stated in the classical book about his peace-making by Christopher Hitchens “The Trial Of Henry Kissinger”.

Here is Carl Estabrook’s trustworthy account with personal references.

Brzezinski (now 88) doesn’t have as much blood on his hands but his hawkish “Realpolitk” contributions to US foreign policy – including its failures – over decades are well described here.

So, undoubtedly these voices from past militarism and imperialism – here understood as theoretical concepts, not as ideological slogans – are supposed to enlighten the participants in Oslo, young university students in particular, in the right teachings, in U.S. international political history and concepts, promote their surreal peace concept and present an interpretation of the – surely – benign US and its exceptionalist role in the future world (dis)order.

Let me be very clear: I am in favour of universities being open, of free academic debate and freedom of expression. These two cast-off ideologues are entitled to that too – in Oslo for sure.

But I do have this to ask:

Who will get the same honour while holding the different, opposite views – as should be the case in normal academic-intellectual settings?

Will the Nobel Institute and Oslo University honour intellectuals with such other values and perspectives? Would they invite victims of the policies of the US under the influence of Kissinger and Brzezinski?

And would somebody be invited to a similar high-profiled event who work with peace concepts that – in stark contrast to these two – are based on conflict analysis, anti-imperialism, anti-militarism, disarmament, nonviolence, reconciliation, forgiveness and the cultures of peace including dialogue and negotiations?

Would the two institutions be equally proud to invite scholars and diplomats who – in stark contrast to these two – stand firmly on the United Nations Charter provisions that war shall be abolished and that peace shall be established by peaceful means, meaning that all civilian means shall be tried and found in vain before the UN organises a military action? In other words, supporters of international law and not violators of it?

This brings me to a confession of sorts:

While I am in favour of intellectual freedom and open debate, I am not in favour of the Nobel Institute inviting people such as Kissinger and Brzezinski. The Institute as well as the Nobel Committee that decides who shall be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize has a mandate based upon the will of Alfred Nobel.

And he wrote there that he wanted his Prize to go to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

It goes without saying and without further discussion that the two visitors have done nothing – nothing – for that.

To award prizes – and honour by invitations – alleged, non-convicted war criminals should, by simple logics, be unthinkable. Impossible.

The link between the prize committee and the institute is clear; that link is embodied in professor Olav Njölstad, a historian, who both heads the Nobel Institute and is a member (secretary) of the Nobel Committee.

The Kissinger-Brzezinski event is nothing less than a slap in the face of everyone working for peace and of Alfred Nobel’s will.

It’s a crystal clear violation of that will and legal authorities as well as the Swedish Nobel Foundation ought to secure that anything like this can never happen again. I know from experience that none will take action. Peace is war and war is peace – and why should they care about a will and legal issues when they honour people who have systematically broken international law or advocated the breaking of it?

Or, in other words, anybody who feels they need to be enlightened by two of the oldest and worst representatives of the most militant and war-fighting nation on earth about the world’s future and about peace signals only one thing: The intellectual and moral decay of a small Western country totally submissive to the US – which itself is in utterly clear moral, intellectual, political and economic decay – and Empire fast approaching its end thanks to its own policies.

One way to go: Boycott the event and let Kissinger, Brzezinski, Njölstad and Ottersen be the only ones who turn up in that huge hall on December 11th.

Or, go there – students, media and civil society – and raise all the questions any independent, decent academic must. And anyone must who takes the word peaceseriously.

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The House of Representatives has passed an intelligence bill aimed at tackling what Washington claims is political interference by Russia on a global level.

The 93-page bill, passed by the House in a 390-30 vote on Wednesday, calls for setting up a new, interagency panel to suppress Russia’s alleged attempts to “exert covert influence over peoples and governments,” The Washington Post reported.

The draft legislation goes on to state that the panel would be tasked with

“countering active measures by Russia to exert covert influence, including exposing falsehoods, agents of influence, corruption, human rights abuses, terrorism and assassinations carried out by the security services or political elites of the Russian Federation or their proxies.”

The bill could be seen in direct opposition to President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to strengthen relations with Moscow.

In addition to thwarting Russia’s alleged interference, the bill also outlines funding for efforts to foil attacks and deny terrorists safe harbor in Iraq, Syria, North Africa, and other locations. It aims to strengthen counter-intelligence and address threats from adversaries in cyberspace, space and at sea.

It also updates whistleblower procedures in the intelligence community and requires a declassification review of intelligence reports on detainees transferred out of Guantanamo Bay by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill before the end of the year.

Also Wednesday, the six Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to President Obama, seeking declassification of information about Russia’s alleged meddling in the US presidential election.

“We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian government and the US election that should be declassified and released to the public,” they wrote in the letter. “We are conveying specifics through classified channels.”

Moscow has dismissed claims that it meddled in the US presidential election as “nonsense,” with President Vladimir Putin calling the accusation an attempt to distract American voters from domestic issues.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently told Italian newspaper Corriere della sera that there is still no proof of Moscow’s alleged meddling in the US presidential elections, calling the accusations “myth-making with a goal to solve the short-term political objectives.”

“No promised ‘evidence’ of interference in the electoral process has been presented neither to the American, nor to the international public,” Lavrov said.

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One should wonder where the universal surveillance system dubbed the ‘snoopers charter’ installed by Britain’s government is heading for eventually. Recently described by Edward Snowden in tweets as the “most intrusive and least accountable surveillance regime in the West” and its “a comprehensive record of your private activities, the activity log of your life,” – it should really make you ask that question.

We now have a good idea of what surveillance the British government is going to be conducting over its citizens from now on. But think for a minute. The last twelve months of online activity will be captured – what does this say about you? What does it look like? Does it reveal your political interests, subscriptions, social networks and how they relate to you, religious or medical concerns, even your most private sexual interests. And fantasies; fantasies that many people have that are never enacted, such as doing something evil or illegal – but searching the internet out of nothing more than inquisitiveness. How confusing would that be to the state or to one of the many tens of thousands of individuals in government departments not professionally trained to interpret all this data. Generally speaking what this surveillance system does is to map out who you really are like no other.

Before we consider where this system is potentially going, it should be understood what the government is capable of when it comes to creating an act and then abusing it. Let’s take the the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

RIPA was primarily defined as a legal framework to combat serious crime and terrorism: “In the interests of national security (including terrorism), for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder, in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, in the interests of public safety, for the purpose of protecting public health.” Four iterations later in 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2015 and the Act has widened out dramatically.

Soon after Theresa May at the Home Office got her knees under the table, the use of RIPA caused headlines such as: “Official complaint over police use of Ripa against journalists” (The Guardian) and “BBC uses anti-terror spy powers to track down licence fee dodgers” (Daily Mail).

Then we found that local councils were using this act designed to catch serious criminals and terrorists to hunt down non-payment of council tax. Indeed, 11 councils every day were conducting thousands of covert surveillance operations across the country for this purpose alone.

These same anti-terror laws were also used to target dog fouling and even underage sunbed users and parking fines.

In terms of actual terrorism, regardless of your political or judicial persuasion, you could argue why the killer of politician Jo Cox was not tried in Yorkshire for the crime of murder but tried in London for an act of terrorism. Interestingly, the judge in this case said: “It is evident from your internet searches that your inspiration is not love of country or your fellow citizens, it is an admiration for Nazis and similar anti-democratic white supremacist creeds. Our parents’ generation made huge sacrifices to defeat those ideas and values in the second world war. What you did … betrays those sacrifices.”

If ever there was a case for highlighting mission creep by the government, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act defines it perfectly, the Terrorism Act 2000 seems to work in harmony, when it suits the government.

Back to the, where are the new surveillance laws going question.  If the government now has total access to your entire life and you apply mission creep as in the proven example above, consider what China is currently testing right now.

From the Wall Street Journal:

“Hangzhou’s local government is piloting a “social credit” system the Communist Party has said it wants to roll out nationwide by 2020, a digital reboot of the methods of social control the regime uses to avert threats to its legitimacy. More than three dozen local governments across China are beginning to compile digital records of social and financial behavior to rate creditworthiness. A person can incur black marks for infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules. The effort echoes the dang’an, a system of dossiers the Communist party keeps on urban workers’ behaviour.

In time, Beijing expects to draw on bigger, combined data pools, including a person’s internet activity, according to interviews with some architects of the system and a review of government documents. Algorithms would use a range of data to calculate a citizen’s rating, which would then be used to determine all manner of activities, such as who gets loans, or faster treatment at government offices or access to luxury hotels.”

What China intends to do is collect data from multiple sources, incorporate government department data, social media and online activities, and combine them with academic achievement, volunteer work, financial expenditure, loans and tax data, online shopping habits and the like. The WSJ headline “China’s New Tool for Social Control: A Credit Rating for Everything” explained further:

“A credit-scoring service by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services—one of eight companies approved to pilot commercial experiments with social-credit scoring—assigns ratings based on information such as when customers shop online, what they buy and what phone they use. If users opt in, the score can also consider education levels and legal records. Perks in the past for getting high marks have included express security screening at the Beijing airport, part of an Ant agreement with the airport.

“Especially for young people, your online behavior goes towards building up your online credit profile,” said Joe Tsai, Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, “and we want people to be aware of that so they know to behave themselves better.”

Planning documentation in a ZeroHedge article on the same subject described the credit system to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” It even provides an over-arching infographic.

According to the WSJ/Zerohedge articles a “blacklisting system” has already been created. The purposes of this is to counterbalance the good behaviour credits.

“The system is designed to automatically provide “green lanes” for faster access to government services for “well-behaved” citizens while levying travel bans and other punishments on those who get out of line. China’s judiciary has already created a blacklisting system that would tie into the national social-credit operation. Zhuang Daohe, a Hangzhou legal scholar, cites the example of a client, part-owner of a travel company, who now can’t buy tickets for planes or high-speed trains because a Hangzhou court put him on a blacklist after he lost a dispute with a landlord.

The blueprint to this system is really quite simple. Credits are given for perceived good behaviours and taken away by bad perceived behaviours. Well behaved citizens will get access to “Green Lanes” that gives faster and better government services and penalties for those with low scores include delays or higher barriers to obtaining loans for instance or being given access to leisure services.

Additional scrutiny will be implemented for those who are classified in more sensitive employment such as journalists, lawyers or teachers, but one can can see how wide this list might become. It’s all about control.

Think this is all too far-fetched for a democracy like Britain or America? Well, it is already happening – slowly. The government knows the theory of the panopticon. Its been using it for centuries. The panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be observed (-opticon) by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly. Bentham’s design is being adapted as a government playbook for future civil rights and liberties.

Investigatory Powers Bill will provide any Secretary of State with the ability to force communication service providers (CSPs) to remove or disable end-to-end encryption.

Here’s how: Pew Research conducted over two and half years from 2014 (after the Snowden revelations) demonstrates how self censorship is already working in a big way. “Some 86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints, but many say they would like to do more or are unaware of tools they could use. And 55% of internet users have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations or the government – 61% say they would like to do more to protect their privacy.” In addition 31% had taken at least one step to hide or shield their information from the government.

study by the University of Oxford demonstrated some interesting results regarding recent changes in our internet activities. The study provides evidence of the “chilling effects” of Wikipedia users associated with online government surveillance, again after the Snowden revelations of 2013.

“Using an interdisciplinary research design, the study tests the hypothesis, based on chilling effects theory, that traffic to privacy-sensitive Wikipedia articles reduced after the mass surveillance revelations. The Article finds not only a statistically significant immediate decline in traffic for these Wikipedia articles after June 2013, but also a change in the overall secular trend in the view count traffic, suggesting not only immediate but also long-term chilling effects resulting from the NSA/GCHQ PRISM online surveillance revelations. These, and other results from the case study, offer compelling evidence for chilling effects associated with online surveillance.”

This study is among the first to demonstrate — using either Wikipedia data or web traffic data more generally — how government surveillance and similar actions may impact online activities, including access to information and knowledge online says it author Jon Penney.

Here is proof that the more people know they are being surveilled, the more they censor themselves. The government are becoming so intrusive that many now believe for self protection they are to be classed alongside hackers.

So as Bentham’s panopticon is redesigned for the digital age to instil anxiety in order that those in power continue their reign, everyone else is being forced to bow their heads for fear of being caught looking up. In the meantime, China’s new method of population control will, no doubt, be carefully monitored by our own government and who knows, may modify, adapt or even adopt it to control behaviour of its citizens (who just voted against the establishment by way of Brexit).

Our government had no intention of declaring its universal citizen surveillance systems found to be illegal in courts both at home and abroad and in an attempt to legally cover itself has railroaded through the Snoopers Charter in record time, willingly supported by an opposition in exchange for nothing more than a self centred exclusion clause for its own benefit. The government, after a few more years of unchallenged and weak opposition will continue to act as though it has some divine existential right to move Britain towards an authoritarian state where the thin veil of democracy is more rhetoric than reality and corporations seize complete control such as CETA’s rampant profiteering ambitions.

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Secret TISA Trade Deal: Equally as Dangerous as TPP and TTIP

December 1st, 2016 by Friends of the Earth

While the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) appears to be dead [1] and negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) stalled [2], another similar corporate trade deal still in the making – the Trade in Services Agreement or TiSA – maintains significant threats for essential protections for people and planet.

New comparative analysis [3] carried out by Friends of the Earth International about the mechanisms and likely impacts of these three ‘new generation’ trade agreements highlight the dangerous complementarity of the TPP-TTIP-TiSA trade trio. It calls for further mobilisation against corporate-led trade deals in the making in particular TiSA.

Friends of the Earth International’s trade campaigner Sam Cossar-Gilbert said:

“While the TPP has been much more hyped about than the secretive TiSA talks, our findings show that both deals would threaten hard won rights for citizens and the environment in a very similar way. It would be hypocritical for decision-makers to oppose one of the deals and not the others.”

“The highly secret TiSA deal alone would cover over 65% of global GDP. It could affect the lives of over 1.5 billion people, by leading to increased privatization and deregulation at the expense of the public interest.”

Friends of the Earth US director, Erich Pica said:

“The outcome of the recent US elections should be a wake up call for politicians who are currently negotiating harmful free-trade deals. All across the world people are frustrated at the broken neo-liberal trade system. It is time for politicians and government representatives to take their concerns into account and stop trading away the public interest”

The key findings of the new report ‘Dangerous liaisons: the new trade trio’ are as follows:

•    Public policies are impacted and restricted by all three agreements that involve ‘behind the border’ regulatory changes. All include similar language, mechanisms or provisions, be it ‘Domestic Regulation’ (TiSA), Regulatory Coherence (TPP) or Regulatory Cooperation (TTIP) and Transparency, which may result in corporations challenging and hampering almost any state policy to protect the public good.

•    TiSA, TPP and TTIP all aim for the extensive liberalization of public procurement in countries party to the agreements, restricting governments’ ability support sustainable local food systems, jobs or local production of clean energy.

•    Environmental protection wording in these deals is merely soft law in comparison to the binding liberalization and deregulation provisions, leaving open concerns that all deals would lead to a downgrading of standards identified as ‘barriers to trade’.

•    Intense secrecy is another common feature, although it does vary slightly between the different sets of negotiations. TiSA is the least transparent trade agreement, for negotiating texts were not only meant to be kept secret during negotiations, but also for five years after the deal is finalized. Details of the deal are only available due leaks.

Notes

[1]  http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2016-11-tpp-trade-deal-dies-to-environmental-applause

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/15/germany-trump-ttip-trade-deal

[3]  http://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/foe-trade-bookletWEB.pdf

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America’s Military Base on Diego Garcia: What’s Next?

December 1st, 2016 by Nina Lebedeva

The 50 years term of the agreement between Great Britain and the USA regarding the Pentagon’s lease of Diego Garcia atoll, which is located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, for military purposes expires in December 2016. However, chances are it could be prolonged for 20 years till December 2036.

For more than a dozen years, this horseshoe atoll has been shrouded in secrets and myths that have caused a general curiosity of quite a different nature. Rich German and Italian tourists that rested on the Maldives Islands and got a bellyful of the local beautiful landscapes rented a fishing boat to visit a secret base on Diego Garcia. Having managed to approach the atoll up close, they were detained and deported. The curiosity was aroused by information on a secret prison located on the premises that is similar to Guantanamo, which retained either the Sri Lankan fishermen or the other perpetrators of the island’s borders. Media information on the presence of a secret deep-water base (in fact, an entire underwater city) also fuelled speculations, which meant that all movements in the Indian Ocean zone as well as the 5 high-tech monitoring stations connected to the Global Search System with sites in Hawaii, Kwajalein, and Colorado Springs were listened on.

This base’s obscure history raises many questions. The first one is why does this land fragment attract so much attention, and what is the fate of the military base, which the Pentagon has considered the most strategically important among many of the same “points” outside the US borders for more than a half a century, and which is also called the “base of shame” around the world?

Initially, it was known that the USA had not made any official payments for the island’s lease. Later on, the information appeared that it had been leased in exchange for a $14 million discount obtained from the USA for London to acquire the Polaris submarine-based ballistic missiles.

Looking at the map, one can see the most convenient methods of projecting power into the direction of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the South China Sea. Their use allowed the Pentagon to react instantly to events in the “hot spots” and to conduct military campaigns during the Gulf War of 1990-1991 and the anti-terrorist war in Afghanistan and Iraq. For this purpose, 16 separate units were located on Diego Garcia, including a naval support base and a strategic bomber airfield base, the point locations for guided missile submarines and a nuclear weapons storage. The base was important both for maintaining tight control of the oil streams from the Gulf into South Asia, Southeast Asia, and North Asia, and for curbing China’s military rise and the presence of the Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean.

The second one is: Will the myth that the island is “uninhabited” that was imposed to the world by Washington and London be finally dispelled? In order to understand this myth, let us consider the most gloomy pages of a cruel narrative on the expulsion of the Ilois in 1966. The Ilois were the native citizens, each of whom obtained a tiny compensation worth 3 thousand pounds per person from the British government to get established in a new place that was hardly suitable for habitation. This deal was shrewdly wrapped up by Harold Wilson (the Labour government) and Lyndon Johnson (the Democratic government) during the signing of the agreement on the lease of Diego Garcia, which in fact did not exist and was just an exchange of notes). The list of details in the Ilois struggle for their right to return home is rather long, and it includes suits in the British Parliament and the Supreme Court, calls to the European Parliament, appeals to the African Union and the 1982 UN Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, etc. These were heard by the three Nobel Prize winners, dozens of members of the British Parliament. However, the British government used the royal prerogative to block the problem resolution, noting the high cost of its implementation – according to the results of a study conducted by the auditing company KPMG on commission from the British Foreign Office, returning the displaced persons to the island would cost the British treasury 66 million pounds. In 2010, impeding the immigration, London organized an end run by announcing the creation of the maritime protected zone around the Chagos Archipelago, where fishing was banned and other human activities limited.

During the negotiations on the fate of Diego Garcia in 2014 and 2016, Barack Obama and David Cameron had to discuss the problem of the Ilois migration at such a high diplomatic level.

The third one is why, despite all the negativity around the base and criticism from the international community, its relevance among the new actors in international relations in the Indian Ocean is growing like a snowball? Great Britain plans that were announced in 2014 to place military platforms, an aircraft carrier, nuclear submarines, support ships, aircraft of the Royal Navy and Air Forces at the newly opened base Mina Salman in Bahrain demonstrate the return of London to the ” East of Suez”, in the course of which Diego Garcia might become particularly important for England. The expansion in the past two years of various interests and the desire of the Federal Republic of Germany to participate in the political and strategic trends in the India Ocean create an idea to search strategically convenient sites in the region for the German bases. Given the US approval, Djibouti and Diego Garcia might be interesting for Germany, as the German destroyer or torpedo boat destroyer with the Navy support ships might be operational. After long-lasting speculations and doubts, the Agreement on the military logistics between the USA and India signed in August 2016 will allow the Parties to use each other’s military bases for technical support, servicing, refuelling, and other actions. Does this mean that the agreement will be effective for both parties, and that India will acquire access to Diego Garcia and Djibouti?

During the 2016 pre-election campaign, the US presidential candidate, Donald Trump, declared that Japan and South Korea should pay more for the US progressive military presence in Asia. He was surprised by a huge number of the US overseas bases.

Does this mean that after entering the White House, Donald Trump will commit to making considerable changes in this context? Apparently, all this may sink into oblivion due their lack of basis. However, although there is no confirmation of the extension of the Diego Garcia lease, there is no doubt that it will happen in the nearest future, as it is in the interests of both countries.

Nina Lebedeva, leading scholar at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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In the weeks since the November 8 election, US media reports on the spread of so-called “fake news” during the presidential campaign have increasingly repeated unsubstantiated pre-election claims that the Russian government hacked into Democratic Party email servers to undermine the campaign of Hillary Clinton. There is more than a whiff of McCarthyism in this crusade against “fake news” on social media and the Internet, with online publications critical of US wars of aggression and other criminal activities being branded as Russian propaganda outlets.

A case in point is an article published in the November 24 edition of the Washington Post headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.” The article includes assertions that Russian “botnets, teams of paid human ‘trolls,’ and networks of web sites and social media accounts” were used to promote sites across the Internet “as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers.”

According to the Post, the exposure of Russian involvement in the spread of fake election news is based on the work of a team of “independent researchers” and another anonymous group calling itself PropOrNot, which has expertise in “computer science, national security and public policy.” Although no one from the PropOrNot organization is mentioned by name, the Post quotes the executive director of this group anonymously. The organization has gone so far as to publish a list of 200 web sites—including WikiLeaks, the ultra-right Drudge Report and the left-liberal Truthout—that are deemed “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.”

It should be obvious that the Post report is itself an example of the state-sponsored pseudo-news that is increasingly dispensed by the corporate-controlled media to promote the geopolitical and military aims of American imperialism. The New York Times has published similar articles, including one authored by David E. Sanger and posted on the Times web site on November 25 under the headline “US Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears.”

Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent of the Times, is a regular sounding board for the military/intelligence establishment, to which he is closely “plugged in.” He writes that “intelligence officials are still investigating the impact of a broader Russian ‘information warfare’ campaign, in which fake news about Mrs. Clinton, and about United States-Russia relations, appeared intended to influence voters.” He adds, “Many of those false reports originated from RT News and Sputnik, two state-funded Russian sites.”

The readers of this and virtually all other articles on the topic of Russia’s role in “fake news” will search in vain for a single piece of evidence to substantiate the claims made. Instead, the views and opinions of “experts,” usually unnamed, are cited and treated as indisputable fact—much in the manner of Joe McCarthy and similar witch-hunters.

The editors and writers who produce these articles seem not even to notice that their publications have been caught in one colossal lie after another—from the claims of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” used to justify the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 to the more recent flood of government propaganda in support of neo-colonial wars in Libya and Syria and drone killings in a growing number of countries—all justified in the name of “human rights” and the “war on terror.”

There are no institutions anywhere in the world more adept at producing “fake news” than the American corporate-controlled media.

These same media outlets further discredited themselves by overtly slanting their “news” coverage of the election campaign in favor of their preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, and predicting that she would secure a decisive victory. Blindsided by the support for Trump among disaffected and angry lower-income people and taken unawares by the electoral collapse of the Democrats, the corporate media are responding to the growth of popular distrust by seeking to discredit alternative news sources.

This is not to deny the spread of false information and propaganda masquerading as news on the Internet. Fabricated news stories and hoaxes have been circulating online since the World Wide Web began in the 1990s, but there was a significant increase in “fake” political sites and content during the US elections. Stories that stretched the truth or were entirely made up typically started on mock news web sites and were then amplified by social media sharing. Other false reports originated on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and spread rapidly with the “like,” “share” and “comment” features of social media.

An analysis published by Buzzfeed on November 16 showed that false political news stories in the final three months of the election campaign, such as a report that the Pope had endorsed Trump for president, generated more engagement on Facebook than the combined top stories of nineteen major US news organizations. The Buzzfeed study noted the “hyperpartisan right-wing” nature of the top fabricated news items, as well as the spike in the number of visitors to these sites during the final election months.

Another key aspect of online “fake news” has been the growth of its scope internationally. The Guardian reported in August, for example, that a group of teenagers and college students from Veles, Macedonia set up dozens of political web site façades to both influence and cash in on the Trump candidacy. The Guardian report also pointed out that, although the pro-Trump sham news sites were more popular, both offshore and domestic web sites became very popular and generated income for their publishers whether they were peddling phony “conservative” or “liberal” misinformation.

That being said, the campaign in the corporate media against “fake news” on the Internet, including calls for social media outlets such as Google and Facebook to vet the material that appears on their sites, is a reactionary attack on freedom of the press. It has already elicited positive responses from major Internet sites. Both Google and Facebook have published statements acknowledging that they are working on systems that will use third-party “fact-checking” of news content published on their services. In the case of Facebook, this initiative—reminiscent of Orwell’s Thought Police—will be reinforced by barring accounts identified as “fake news” sources from using online advertising tools.

Pressure to shut down or muzzle “fake news” sites and social media accounts are emanating from the offices of corporate media organizations concerned about the loss of their influence over the public. Any moves to censor Internet content must be opposed as an attack on democratic rights. The measures being prepared today against “fake news” web sites and social media publishers will be perfected and used tomorrow against the working class and the socialist media—the World Socialist Web Sitethat articulates and fights for its independent interests.

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Trump Refuses to Sever Ties with his Business Empire

December 1st, 2016 by E.P. Milligan

US President-elect Donald Trump has made clear that he will not sever ties with his vast business empire upon assuming office. The decision underscores the authoritarian and corrupt character of the incoming government and its open contempt for democratic norms.

While some media outlets have published articles worrying about the legal implications of a government with manifold and open conflicts of interest, the Democratic Party has been virtually silent on the question. This is in keeping with its effort to legitimize an administration headed by an ultra-right billionaire, who lost the popular vote by a substantial margin, and to make the transition from Obama to Trump as seamless as possible.

In defending his decision, Trump recently declared, “As far as the potential conflict of interests, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

From a legal and constitutional standpoint, this assertion is clearly false. The Emoluments Clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8) of the US Constitution bars any person holding office in the US government from receiving any sort of present, salary, fee or profit from a foreign state.

Trump has business interests in real estate, management and branding in no less than 18 foreign countries, spanning virtually the entire globe. They are: Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Panama, Bermuda, French Antilles, Scotland, Ireland, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Israel, South Africa, Indonesia, India and China. He is currently attempting to expand into Argentina. Over the course of his 16-month election campaign, Trump registered eight new companies based in Saudi Arabia.

The president-elect claims he will form a blind trust, an arrangement whereby the management of his holdings would be turned over to a trustee with whom he had no contact. But he insists on naming his three adult children, all of whom are involved in his transition team, as the trustees, making a mockery of his supposed adherence to legal and democratic norms.

Among the most obvious conflicts of interest arising from Trump’s business ventures and the political power he will wield as president are the following:

* Trump owns shares of stock in companies involved in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is being opposed by Native American tribes and hundreds of supporters who have been protesting for months in the face of brutal police repression. Trump owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, and holds between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, which owns a one-quarter share of the pipeline.

* The Trump International Hotel, which opened in October in Washington, DC, is housed in a building leased by Trump from the federal government’s General Services Administration. As president, Trump will have the power to appoint the GSA’s next administrator. The hotel has already begun catering to foreign diplomats on official state business.

• Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte appointed a longtime business associate of Trump as a special envoy to the United States in late October.

• Trump’s golf course in Turnberry, Scotland opened during his election campaign. He has since encouraged UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage to oppose the construction of offshore wind farms that would affect the coastal views at the golf resort.

It is already clear from Trump’s actions and those of his transition team members that he has no intention of avoiding conflicts of interest. Though he claims that his children will take no part in his administration, he appears to already have requested security clearances not only for his children, but also for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who owns a real estate company as well as the New York Observer.

His children have already been present in meetings between Trump and foreign leaders. Ivanka participated in a meeting between her father and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on November 17 as well as in a phone call with Argentine President Mauricio Macri on November 14. Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata has alleged that the president elect’s first call with Macri included a discussion about circumventing permit requirements that are delaying the construction of a Trump-brand office building in Buenos Aires. Both Ivanka and Eric appeared with Mr. Trump at a meeting with three of the family’s Indian business associates in New York on November 15.

Trump, the personification of the backwardness and criminality of the American financial aristocracy, has an extensive history of corrupt business practices. From the 1970s on, he has been at the center of scandal after scandal:

* He was charged with housing discrimination on the basis of “race and color” at 39 sites around New York in the 1970s. He was caught bullying tenants at various buildings he was attempting to convert into luxury apartments and condos in the 1980s.

• He is alleged to have links to mafia figures, including Robert LiButti, John Gotti’s right-hand man, who was a preferred customer at Trump’s Atlantic City casino up until 1991.

• He is notorious for hyper-exploitation of undocumented Polish immigrants on a building site in New York City. The workers were paid $5 an hour, with numerous cases of alleged wage theft. They were forced to sleep at the construction site. If they raised the question of back pay with management, they were threatened with deportation.

• Trump ventures have been cited for violations of casino laws, including one instance where his father bought 700 chips worth a total of $3.5 million with no intention of gambling. The purchase, serving essentially as an illegal loan, helped Trump pay off the casino’s debt.

• He has been cited for anti-trust violations, including one case in 1986 when he attempted to carry out a hostile takeover of two rival casinos, Holiday and Bally.

• He is known for allegedly refusing to pay contractors, waiters, dishwashers and plumbers in hundreds of cases over the course of three decades.

• On November 18, ten days after the election, it was reported that Trump had agreed to pay $25 million to settle two class action law suits and a third suit brought by the New York State Attorney General’s Office charging illegal and fraudulent business practices in connection with his for-profit Trump University, which operated from 2005 to 2010. The “university” was essentially a pyramid-scheme consisting of a series of “seminars” that claimed to teach his real estate business secrets. Students paid as much as $35,000 for the classes, only to find that many of the instructors were totally unqualified.

* Trump may have avoided paying income tax for nearly two decades by exploiting a legal loophole. His tax returns in 1995 reported a $916 million loss (three years after his second bankruptcy), a number so high that it legally exempted him from income tax for 18 years. He has refused to release his tax returns to the public.

* The Donald J. Trump Foundation admitted in IRS filings that it broke federal rules against “self-dealing,” a provision intended to prevent charitable organizations from using funds to help their leaders’ families or business interests. Trump was fond of using the foundation’s funds to settle his legal disputes. He appears to have spent some $260,000 in foundation funds on legal battles. The foundation reportedly also bought high-priced luxury items only to gift them to Trump.

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The news that President-elect Donald Trump called in disgraced retired Gen. David Petraeus for a job interview as possible Secretary of State tests whether Trump’s experience in hosting “The Celebrity Apprentice” honed his skills for spotting an incompetent phony or not.

Does Trump need more data than the continuing bedlam in Iraq and Afghanistan to understand that one can earn a Princeton PhD by writing erudite-sounding drivel about “counterinsurgency” and still flunk war? Granted, the shambles in which Petraeus left Iraq and Afghanistan were probably more a result of his overweening careerism and political ambition than his misapplication of military strategy. But does that make it any more excusable?

Gen. David Petraeus in a photo with his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell. (U.S. government photo)

Gen. David Petraeus in a photo with his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell. (U.S. government photo)

In 2007, Adm. William Fallon, commander of CENTCOM with four decades of active-duty experience behind him, quickly took the measure of Petraeus, who was one of his subordinates while implementing a “surge” of over 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq.

Several sources reported that Fallon was sickened by Petraeus’s unctuous pandering to ingratiate himself. Fallon is said to have been so turned off by all the accolades in the flowery introduction given him by Petraeus that he called him to his face “an ass-kissing little chickenshit,” adding, “I hate people like that.” Sadly, Petraeus’s sycophancy is not uncommon among general officers. Uncommon was Fallon’s outspoken candor.

The past decade has shown that obsequiousness to those above him and callousness toward others are two of Petraeus’s most notable character traits. They go along with his lack of military acumen and his dishonesty as revealed in his lying to the FBI about handing over top-secret notebooks to his biographer/lover, an “indiscretion” that would have landed a less well-connected person in jail but instead got him only a mild slap on the wrist (via a misdemeanor guilty plea).

Indeed, Petraeus, the epitome of a “political general,” represents some of the slimiest depths of the Washington “swamp” that President-elect Trump has vowed to drain. Petraeus cares desperately about the feelings of his fellow elites but shows shocking disdain for the suffering of other human beings who are not so important.

In early 2011 in Afghanistan, Petraeus shocked aides to then-President Hamid Karzai after many children were burned to death in a “coalition” attack in northeastern Afghanistan by suggesting that Afghan parents may have burned their own children to exaggerate their claims of civilian casualties and discredit the U.S., reported The Washington Post, citing two participants at the meeting.

“Killing 60 people, and then blaming the killing on those same people, rather than apologizing for any deaths? This is inhuman,” one Afghan official said. “This is a really terrible situation.”

Yet, on other occasions, the politically savvy Petraeus can be a paragon of sensitivity – like when he is in danger of getting crosswise with the Israel Lobby.

Never did Petraeus’s fawning shine through with more brilliance, than when an (unintentionally disclosed) email exchange showed him groveling before arch-neocon Max Boot, beseeching Boot’s help in fending off charges that Petraeus was “anti-Israel” because his prepared testimony to a congressional committee included the no-brainer observations that Israeli-Palestinian hostility presents “distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” and that “this conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. … Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

So, telling the truth (perhaps accidentally in prepared testimony) made Petraeus squirm with fear about offending the powerful Israel Lobby, but he apparently didn’t hesitate to lie to FBI agents when he was caught in a tight spot for sharing highly sensitive intelligence with Paula Broadwell, his mistress/biographer. But, again, Petraeus realized that it helps to have influential friends. A court gave him a slap on the wrist with a sentence of two years probation and a fine of $100,000 – which is less than he usually makes for a single speaking engagement.

Military Incompetent Without Parallel

And, if President-elect Trump isn’t repulsed by the stench of hypocrisy – if he ignores Petraeus’s reckless handling of classified material after Trump lambasted Hillary Clinton for her own careless behavior in that regard – there is also the grim truth behind Petraeus’s glitzy image.

David Petraeus, a two-star general during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, with Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace.

David Petraeus, a two-star general during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, with Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace.

As a military strategist or even a trainer of troops, Petraeus has been an unparalleled disaster. Yes, the corporate media always runs interference for Official Washington’s favorite general. But that does not equate with genuine success.

The Iraq “surge,” which Petraeus oversaw, was misrepresented in the corporate media as a huge victory – because it was credited with a brief dip in the level of violence at the cost of some 1,000 American lives (and those of many more Iraqis) – but the “surge” failed its principal goal of buying time to heal the rift between Shiites and Sunnis, a division that ultimately led to the emergence of the Islamic State (or ISIS).

Then, in early 2014, the crackerjack Iraqi troops whom Petraeus bragged about training ran away from Mosul, leaving their modern U.S.-provided weapons behind for the Islamic State’s jihadists to play with.

In part because of that collapse – with Iraqi forces only now beginning to chip away at ISIS control of Mosul – the Obama administration was dragged into another Mideast war, spilling across Iraq and Syria and adding to the droves of refugees pouring into Europe, a crisis that is now destabilizing the European Union.

You might have thought that the combination of military failures and scandalous behavior would have ended David Petraeus’s “government service,” but he has never lost his skill at putting his finger to the wind.

During the presidential campaign, the windsock Petraeus was circumspect, which was understandable given the uncertainty regarding which way the wind was blowing.

However, on Sept. 1, 2015, amid calls from the mainstream U.S. media and establishment think tanks for President Obama to escalate the U.S. proxy war to overthrow the Syrian government, Petraeus spoke out in favor of giving more weapons to “moderate” Syrian rebels, despite the widespread recognition that U.S.-supplied guns and rockets were ending up in the hands of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

The new harebrained scheme – favored by Petraeus and other neocons – fantasized about Al Qaeda possibly joining the fight against the Islamic State, although ISIS sprang from Al Qaeda and splintered largely over tactical issues, such as how quickly to declare a jihadist state, not over fundamental fundamentalist goals.

But more miscalculations in the Middle East would be right up Petraeus’s alley. He played an important role in facilitating the emergence of the Islamic State by his too-clever-by-half policy of co-opting some Sunni tribes with promises of shared power in Baghdad and with lots of money, and then simply looking the other way as the U.S.-installed Shia government in Baghdad ditched the promises.

Surge? Or Splurge With Lives

The so-called “surges” of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan are particularly gross examples of the way American soldiers have been used as expendable pawns by ambitious generals like Petraeus and ambitious politicians like former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Former CIA Director (and later Defense Secretary) Robert Gates.

Former CIA Director (and later Defense Secretary) Robert Gates.

The problem is that overweening personal ambition can end up getting a lot of people killed. In the speciously glorified first “surge,” President George W. Bush sent more than 30,000 additional troops into Iraq in early 2007. During the period of the “surge,” about 1,000 U.S. troops died.

There was a similar American death toll during President Barack Obama’s “surge” of another 30,000 troops into Afghanistan in early 2010, a shift toward a counterinsurgency strategy that had been pressed on Obama by Petraeus, Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Despite the loss of those 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers, the counterinsurgency “surge” had little effect on the course of the Afghan War.

The bloody chaos that continues in Iraq today and in the never-ending war in Afghanistan was entirely predictable. Indeed, it was predicted by those of us able to spread some truth around via the Internet, while being blacklisted by the fawning corporate media, which cheered on the “surges” and their chief architect, David Petraeus.

But the truth is not something that thrives in either U.S. politics or media these days. Campaigning early this year in New Hampshire, then-presidential aspirant Jeb Bush gave a short partial-history lesson about his big brother’s attack on Iraq. Referring to the so-called Islamic State, Bush said, “ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president. ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq’ was wiped out … the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq. …”

Jeb Bush is partially right about ISIS; it didn’t exist when his brother George attacked Iraq. Indeed, Al Qaeda didn’t exist in Iraq until afterthe U.S. invasion when it emerged as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and it wasn’t eliminated by the “surge.”

With huge sums of U.S. cash going to Sunni tribes in Anbar province, Al Qaeda in Iraq just pulled back and regrouped. Its top leaders came from the ranks of angry Sunnis who had been officers in Saddam Hussein’s army and – when the “surge” failed to achieve reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites – the U.S. cash proved useful in expanding Sunni resistance to Baghdad’s Shiite government. From the failed “surge” strategy emerged the rebranded “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” the Islamic State.

So, despite Jeb Bush’s attempted spin, the reality is that his brother’s aggressive war in Iraq created both “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and its new incarnation, Islamic State.

The mess was made worse by subsequent U.S. strategy – beginning under Bush and expanding under President Obama – of supporting insurgents in Syria. By supplying money, guns and rockets to “moderate” Sunni rebels, that strategy has allowed the materiel to quickly fall into the hands of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Nusra Front, and its jihadist allies, Ahrar al-Sham.

In other words, U.S. strategy – much of it guided by David Petraeus – continues to strengthen Al Qaeda, which – through its Nusra affiliate and its Islamic State spin-off – now occupies large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Escaping a ‘Lost War’

All this is among the fateful consequences of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq 13 years ago – made worse (not better) by the “surge” in 2007, which contributed significantly to this decade’s Sunni-Shia violence. The real reason for Bush’s “surge” seems to have been to buy time so that he and Vice President Dick Cheney could leave office without having a lost war on their résumés.

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)

As author Steve Coll has put it, “The decision [to surge] at a minimum guaranteed that his [Bush’s] presidency would not end with a defeat in history’s eyes. By committing to the surge [the President] was certain to at least achieve a stalemate.”

According to Bob Woodward, Bush told key Republicans in late 2005 that he would not withdraw from Iraq, “even if Laura and [first-dog] Barney are the only ones supporting me.” Woodward made it clear that Bush was well aware in fall 2006 that the U.S. was losing.

Indeed, by fall 2006, it had become unavoidably clear that a new course had to be chosen and implemented in Iraq, and virtually every sober thinker seemed opposed to sending more troops.

The senior military, especially CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid and his man on the ground in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, emphasized that sending still more U.S. troops to Iraq would simply reassure leading Iraqi politicians that they could relax and continue to take forever to get their act together.

Here, for example, is Gen. Abizaid’s answer at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Nov. 15, 2006, to Sen. John McCain, who had long been pressing vigorously for sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq:

”Senator McCain, I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, ‘in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?’ And they all said no.

“And the reason is because we want the Iraqis to do more. It is easy for the Iraqis to rely upon us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.”

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, sent a classified cable to Washington warning that “proposals to send more U.S. forces to Iraq would not produce a long-term solution and would make our policy less, not more, sustainable,” according to a New York Times retrospective on the “surge” published on Aug. 31, 2008. Khalilzad was arguing, unsuccessfully, for authority to negotiate a political solution with the Iraqis.

There was also the establishment-heavy Iraq Study Group, created by Congress and led by Republican stalwart James Baker and Democrat Lee Hamilton (with Robert Gates as a member although he quit before the review was competed). After months of policy review, the Iraq Study Group issued a final report on Dec. 6, 2006, that began with the ominous sentence “The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.”

It called for:

“A change in the primary mission of U.S. Forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly… By the first quarter of 2008…all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.”

Rumsfeld’s Known-Knowns

The little-understood story behind Bush’s decision to catapult Robert Gates into the post of Defense Secretary was the astonishing fact that Donald Rumsfeld, of all people, was pulling a Robert McNamara; that is, he was going wobbly on a war based largely on his own hubris-laden, misguided advice.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a press briefing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers. (State Department photo)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a press briefing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers. (State Department photo)

In the fall of 2006 Rumsfeld was having a reality attack. In Rumsfeld-speak, he had come face to face with a “known known.”

On Nov. 6, 2006, a day before the mid-term elections, Rumsfeld sent a memo to the White House, in which he acknowledged, “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.” The rest of his memo sounded very much like the emerging troop-drawdown conclusions of the Iraq Study Group.

The first 80 percent of Rumsfeld’s memo addressed “Illustrative Options,” including his preferred – or “above the line” – options such as “an accelerated drawdown of U.S. bases … to five by July 2007” and withdrawal of U.S. forces “from vulnerable positions — cities, patrolling, etc. … so the Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.”

Finally, Rumsfeld had begun to listen to his generals and others who knew which end was up.?The hurdle? Bush and Cheney were not about to follow Rumsfeld’s example in “going wobbly.” Like Robert McNamara at a similar juncture during Vietnam, Rumsfeld had to be let go before he caused a President to “lose a war.”

Waiting in the wings, though, was Robert Gates, who had been CIA director under President George H. W. Bush, spent four years as president of Texas A&M, and had returned to the Washington stage as a member of the Iraq Study Group. While on the ISG, he evidenced no disagreement with its emerging conclusions – at least not until Bush asked him to become Secretary of Defense in early November 2006.

It was awkward. Right up to the week before the mid-term elections on Nov. 7, 2006, President Bush had insisted that he intended to keep Rumsfeld in place for the next two years. Suddenly, the President had to deal with Rumsfeld’s apostasy on Iraq.?Rumsfeld had let reality get to him, together with the very strong anti-surge protestations by all senior uniformed officers save one — the ambitious David Petraeus, who had jumped onboard for the “surge” escalation, which guaranteed another star on his lapel.

All Hail Petraeus

With the bemedaled Petraeus in the wings and guidance on strategy from arch-neocons, such as retired General Jack Keane and think-tank analyst Frederick Kagan, the White House completed the coup against the generals by replacing Rumsfeld with Gates and recalling Casey and Abizaid and elevating Petraeus.

Gen. David Petraeus posing before the U.S. Capitol with Kimberly Kagan, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War, the wife of Frederick Kagan. (Photo credit: ISW’s 2011 Annual Report)

Amid the mainstream media’s hosannas for Petraeus and Gates, the significance of the shakeup was widely misunderstood, with key senators, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, buying the false narrative that the changes presaged a drawdown in the war rather than an escalation.

So relieved were the senators to be rid of the hated-but-feared Rumsfeld that the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Dec. 5, 2006, on Gates’s nomination had the feel of a pajama party (I was there). Gates told them bedtime stories – and vowed to show “great deference to the judgment of generals.”

With unanimous Democratic support and only two conservative Republicans opposed, Gates was confirmed by the full Senate on Dec. 6, 2006.

On Jan. 10, 2007, Bush formally unveiled the bait-and-switch, announcing the “surge” of 30,000 additional troops, a mission that would be overseen by Gates and Petraeus. Bush did acknowledge that there would be considerable loss of life in the year ahead as U.S. troops were assigned to create enough stability for Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni factions to reach an accommodation.

At least, he got the loss-of-life part right. Around 1,000 U.S. troops died during the “surge” along with many more Iraqis. But Bush, Cheney, Petraeus, and Gates apparently deemed that cost a small price to pay for enabling them to blame a successor administration for the inevitable withdrawal from America’s failed war of aggression.

The gambit worked especially well for Gates and Petraeus. Amid glowing mainstream media press clippings about the “successful surge” and “victory at last” in Iraq, Gates was hailed as a new “wise man” and Petraeus was the military genius who pulled victory from the jaws of defeat. Their reputations were such that President Obama concluded that he had no choice but to keep them on, Gates as Defense Secretary and Petraeus as Obama’s top general in the Middle East.

Petraeus then oversaw the “surge” in Afghanistan and landed the job of CIA director, where Petraeus reportedly played a major role in arming up the Syrian rebels in pursuit of another “regime change,” this time in Syria.

Although Petraeus’s CIA tenure ended in disgrace in November 2012 when his dangerous liaison with Paula Broadwell was disclosed, his many allies in Official Washington’s powerful neocon community are now pushing him on President-elect Trump as the man to serve as Secretary of State.

Petraeus is known as a master of flattery, something that seemingly can turn Trump’s head. But the President-elect should have learned from his days hosting “The Celebrity Apprentice” that the winning contender should not be the one most adept at sucking up to the boss.

(Now, with the whole Middle East in turmoil, I find some relief in this brief parody by comedienne Connie Bryan of Petraeus’s performance in training Iraqi troops.)

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, from the administration of John Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush.  He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

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The Government has Been Deploying Propaganda On U.S. Soil for Many Years as part of an intelligence agenda

The United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities found in 1975 that the CIA submitted stories to the American press (see video).

Operation Mockingbird

“After 1953, the network was overseen by Allen W. Dulles, director of the CIA. By this time, Operation Mockingbird had a major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. The usual methodology was placing reports developed from intelligence provided by the CIA to witting or unwitting reporters. Those reports would then be repeated or cited by the preceding reporters which in turn would then be cited throughout the media wire services.

The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was funded by siphoning off funds intended for the Marshall Plan [i.e. the rebuilding of Europe by the U.S. after WWII]. Some of this money was used to bribe journalists and publishers.” (Wikipedia adds details)

In 2008, the New York Times wrote:

During the early years of the cold war, [prominent writers and artists, from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to Jackson Pollock] were supported, sometimes lavishly, always secretly, by the C.I.A. as part of its propaganda war against the Soviet Union. It was perhaps the most successful use of “soft power” in American history.

A CIA operative told Washington Post editor Philip Graham … in a conversation about the willingness of journalists to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories:

You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.

Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein wrote in 1977:

More than 400 American journalists … in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters.

***

In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

***

Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were [the heads of CBS, Time, the New York Times, the Louisville Courier‑Journal, and Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include [ABC, NBC, AP, UPI, Reuters], Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune.

***

There is ample evidence that America’s leading publishers and news executives allowed themselves and their organizations to become handmaidens to the intelligence services. “Let’s not pick on some poor reporters, for God’s sake,” William Colby exclaimed at one point to the Church committee’s investigators. “Let’s go to the managements.

***

The CIA even ran a formal training program in the 1950s to teach its agents to be journalists. Intelligence officers were “taught to make noises like reporters,” explained a high CIA official, and were then placed in major news organizations with help from management.

***

Once a year during the 1950s and early 1960s, CBS correspondents joined the CIA hierarchy for private dinners and briefings.

***

Allen Dulles often interceded with his good friend, the late Henry Luce, founder of Timeand Life magazines, who readily allowed certain members of his staff to work for the Agency and agreed to provide jobs and credentials for other CIA operatives who lacked journalistic experience.

***

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Time magazine’s foreign correspondents attended CIA “briefing” dinners similar to those the CIA held for CBS.

***

When Newsweek waspurchased by the Washington Post Company, publisher Philip L. Graham was informed by Agency officials that the CIA occasionally used the magazine for cover purposes, according to CIA sources. “It was widely known that Phil Graham was somebody you could get help from,” said a former deputy director of the Agency. “Frank Wisner dealt with him.” Wisner, deputy director of the CIA from 1950 until shortly before his suicide in 1965, was the Agency’s premier orchestrator of “black” operations, including many in which journalists were involved. Wisner liked to boast of his “mighty Wurlitzer,” a wondrous propaganda instrument he built, and played, with help from the press.)

***

In November 1973, after [the CIA claimed to have ended the program], Colby told reporters and editors from the New York Times and the Washington Star that the Agency had “some three dozen” American newsmen “on the CIA payroll,” including five who worked for “general‑circulation news organizations.” Yet even while the Senate Intelligence Committee was holding its hearings in 1976, according to high‑level CIA sources, the CIA continued to maintain ties with seventy‑five to ninety journalists of every description—executives, reporters, stringers, photographers, columnists, bureau clerks and members of broadcast technical crews. More than half of these had been moved off CIA contracts and payrolls but they were still bound by other secret agreements with the Agency. According to an unpublished report by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Representative Otis Pike, at least fifteen news organizations were still providing cover for CIA operatives as of 1976.

***

Those officials most knowledgeable about the subject say that a figure of 400 American journalists is on the low side ….

“There were a lot of representations that if this stuff got out some of the biggest names in journalism would get smeared ….

Former Newsweek and Associated Press reporter Robert Parry notes that Ronald Reagan and the CIA unleashed a propaganda campaign in the 1980’s to sell the American public on supporting the Contra rebels, utilizing private players such as Rupert Murdoch to spread disinformation:

Reagan-MurdochPresident Ronald Reagan meeting with media magnate Rupert Murdoch in the Oval Office on Jan. 18, 1983, with Charles Wick, director of the U.S. Information Agency, in the background. (Photo credit: Reagan presidential library)

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration was determined to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome,” the revulsion that many Americans felt for warfare after all those years in the blood-soaked jungles of Vietnam and all the lies that clumsily justified the war.

So, the challenge for the U.S. government became: how to present the actions of “enemies” always in the darkest light while bathing the behavior of the U.S. “side” in a rosy glow. You also had to stage this propaganda theater in an ostensibly “free country” with a supposedly “independent press.”

From documents declassified or leaked over the past several decades, including an unpublished draft chapter of the congressional Iran-Contra investigation, we now know a great deal about how this remarkable project was undertaken and who the key players were.

Perhaps not surprisingly much of the initiative came from the Central Intelligence Agency, which housed the expertise for manipulating target populations through propaganda and disinformation. The only difference this time would be that the American people would be the target population.

For this project, Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director William J. Casey sent his top propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr. to the National Security Council staff to manage the inter-agency task forces that would brainstorm and coordinate this “public diplomacy” strategy.

Many of the old intelligence operatives, including Casey and Raymond, are now dead, but other influential Washington figures who were deeply involved by these strategies remain, such as neocon stalwart Robert Kagan, whose first major job in Washington was as chief of Reagan’s State Department Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America.

***

Declassified documents now reveal how extensive Reagan’s propaganda project became with inter-agency task forces assigned to develop “themes” that would push American “hot buttons.” Scores of documents came out during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and hundreds more are now available at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

What the documents reveal is that at the start of the Reagan administration, CIA Director Casey faced a daunting challenge in trying to rally public opinion behind aggressive U.S. interventions, especially in Central America. Bitter memories of the Vietnam War were still fresh and many Americans were horrified at the brutality of right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador, where Salvadoran soldiers raped and murdered four American churchwomen in December 1980.

The new leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua also was not viewed with much alarm. After all, Nicaragua was an impoverished country of only about three million people who had just cast off the brutal dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.

So, Reagan’s initial strategy of bolstering the Salvadoran and Guatemalan armies required defusing the negative publicity about them and somehow rallying the American people into supporting a covert CIA intervention inside Nicaragua via a counterrevolutionary force known as the Contras led by Somoza’s ex-National Guard officers.

Reagan’s task was made tougher by the fact that the Cold War’s anti-communist arguments had so recently been discredited in Vietnam. As deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly, put it, “the most critical special operations mission we have … is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to get us.”

***

According to the draft report, the CIA officer who was recruited for the NSC job had served as Director of the Covert Action Staff at the CIA from 1978 to 1982 and was a “specialist in propaganda and disinformation.”

***

federal law forbade taxpayers’ money from being spent on domestic propaganda or grassroots lobbying to pressure congressional representatives. Of course, every president and his team had vast resources to make their case in public, but by tradition and law, they were restricted to speeches, testimony and one-on-one persuasion of lawmakers.

But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. “We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding,” Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.)

As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras.

At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network.

In January 1983, President Reagan took the first formal step to create this unprecedented peacetime propaganda bureaucracy by signing National Security Decision Directive 77, entitled “Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security.” Reagan deemed it “necessary to strengthen the organization, planning and coordination of the various aspects of public diplomacy of the United States Government.”

Reagan ordered the creation of a special planning group within the National Security Council to direct these “public diplomacy” campaigns. The planning group would be headed by the CIA’s Walter Raymond Jr. and one of its principal arms would be a new Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America, housed at the State Department but under the control of the NSC.

***

In the memo to then-U.S. Information Agency director Charles Wick, Raymond also noted that “via Murdock [sic] may be able to draw down added funds” to support pro-Reagan initiatives. Raymond’s reference to Rupert Murdoch possibly drawing down “added funds” suggests that the right-wing media mogul had been recruited to be part of the covert propaganda operation. During this period, Wick arranged at least two face-to-face meetings between Murdoch and Reagan.

***

Alarmed at a CIA director participating so brazenly in domestic propaganda, Raymond wrote that “I philosophized a bit with Bill Casey (in an effort to get him out of the loop)” but with little success.

***

Another part of the office’s job was to plant “white propaganda” in the news media through op-eds secretly financed by the government. In one memo, Jonathan Miller, a senior public diplomacy official, informed White House aide Patrick Buchanan about success placing an anti-Sandinista piece in The Wall Street Journal’s friendly pages. “Officially, this office had no role in its preparation,” Miller wrote.

Other times, the administration put out “black propaganda,” outright falsehoods. In 1983, one such theme was designed to anger American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic because much of Nicaragua’s small Jewish community fled after the revolution in 1979.

However, the U.S. embassy in Managua investigated the charges and “found no verifiable ground on which to accuse the GRN [the Sandinista government] of anti-Semitism,” according to a July 28, 1983, cable. But the administration kept the cable secret and pushed the “hot button” anyway.

***

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after CIA covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. “They were trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion … using the tools of Walt Raymond’s trade craft which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation shop,” the official admitted.

Another administration official gave a similar description to The Miami Herald’s Alfonso Chardy. “If you look at it as a whole, the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out a huge psychological operation, the kind the military conduct to influence the population in denied or enemy territory,” that official explained. [For more details, see Parry’s Lost History.]

Parry notes that many of the same people that led Reagan’s domestic propaganda effort in the 1980’s are in power today:

While the older generation that pioneered these domestic propaganda techniques has passed from the scene, many of their protégés are still around along with some of the same organizations. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was formed in 1983 at the urging of CIA Director Casey and under the supervision of Walter Raymond’s NSC operation, is still run by the same neocon, Carl Gershman, and has an even bigger budget, now exceeding $100 million a year.

Gershman and his NED played important behind-the-scenes roles in instigating the Ukraine crisis by financing activists, journalists and other operatives who supported the coup against elected President Yanukovych. The NED-backed Freedom House also beat the propaganda drums. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Shadow Foreign Policy.”]

Two other Reagan-era veterans, Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan, have both provided important intellectual support for continuing U.S. interventionism around the world. Earlier this year, Kagan’s article for The New Republic, entitled “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” touched such a raw nerve with President Obama that he hosted Kagan at a White House lunch and crafted the presidential commencement speech at West Point to deflect some of Kagan’s criticism of Obama’s hesitancy to use military force.

***

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is bigger than ever ….

An expert on propaganda testified under oath during trial that the CIA now employs THOUSANDS of reporters and OWNS its own media organizations. Whether or not his estimate is accurate, it is clear that many prominent reporters still report to the CIA.

John Pilger is a highly-regarded journalist (the BBC’s world affairs editor John Simpson remarked, “A country that does not have a John Pilger in its journalism is a very feeble place indeed”). Pilger said in 2007:

We now know that the BBC and other British media were used by the British secret intelligence service MI-6. In what they called Operation Mass Appeal, MI-6 agents planted stories about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, such as weapons hidden in his palaces and in secret underground bunkers. All of these stories were fake.

***

One of my favorite stories about the Cold War concerns a group of Russian journalists who were touring the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by the host for their impressions. “I have to tell you,” said the spokesman, “that we were astonished to find after reading all the newspapers and watching TV day after day that all the opinions on all the vital issues are the same. To get that result in our country we send journalists to the gulag. We even tear out their fingernails. Here you don’t have to do any of that. What is the secret?”

Nick Davies wrote in the Independent in 2008:

For the first time in human history, there is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it.

The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news. I’ve spent the last two years researching a book about falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media.

The “Zarqawi letter” which made it on to the front page of The New York Times in February 2004 was one of a sequence of highly suspect documents which were said to have been written either by or to Zarqawi and which were fed into news media.

This material is being generated, in part, by intelligence agencies who continue to work without effective oversight; and also by a new and essentially benign structure of “strategic communications” which was originally designed by doves in the Pentagon and Nato who wanted to use subtle and non-violent tactics to deal with Islamist terrorism but whose efforts are poorly regulated and badly supervised with the result that some of its practitioners are breaking loose and engaging in the black arts of propaganda.

***

The Pentagon has now designated “information operations” as its fifth “core competency” alongside land, sea, air and special forces. Since October 2006, every brigade, division and corps in the US military has had its own “psyop” element producing output for local media. This military activity is linked to the State Department’s campaign of “public diplomacy” which includes funding radio stations and news websites. In Britain, the Directorate of Targeting and Information Operations in the Ministry of Defence works with specialists from 15 UK psyops, based at the Defence Intelligence and Security School at Chicksands in Bedfordshire.

In the case of British intelligence, you can see this combination of reckless propaganda and failure of oversight at work in the case of Operation Mass Appeal. This was exposed by the former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter, who describes in his book, Iraq Confidential, how, in London in June 1998, he was introduced to two “black propaganda specialists” from MI6 who wanted him to give them material which they could spread through “editors and writers who work with us from time to time”.

The government is still paying off reporters to spread disinformation. And the corporate media are acting like virtual “escort services” for the moneyed elites, selling access – for a price – to powerful government officials, instead of actually investigating and reporting on what those officials are doing.

One of the ways that the U.S. government spreads propaganda is by making sure that it gets its version out first.   For example, the head of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division – Alvin A. Snyder – wrote in his book Warriors of Disinformation: How Lies, Videotape, and the USIA Won the Cold War:

All governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.

***

Another casualty, always war’s first, was the truth. The story of [the accidental Russian shootdown of a Korean airliner] will be remembered pretty much the way we told it in 1983, not the way it really happened.

In 2013, the American Congress repealed the formal ban against the deployment of propaganda against U.S. citizens living on American soil.  So there’s even less to constrain propaganda than before.

Another key to American propaganda is the constant repetition of propaganda.    As Business Insiderreported in 2013:

Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, a highly-respected officer who released a critical report regarding the distortion of truth by senior military officials in Iraq and Afghanistan ….

From Lt. Col. Davis:

In context, Colonel Leap is implying we ought to change the law to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to “protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will.”

The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 appears to serve this purpose by allowing for the American public to be a target audience of U.S. government-funded information campaigns.

Davis also quotes Brigadier General Ralph O. Baker — the Pentagon officer responsible for the Department of Defense’s Joint Force Development — who defines Information Operations (IO) as activities undertaken to “shape the essential narrative of a conflict or situation and thus affect the attitudes and behaviors of the targeted audience.”

Brig. Gen. Baker goes on to equate descriptions of combat operations with the standard marketing strategy of repeating something until it is accepted:

For years, commercial advertisers have based their advertisement strategies on the premise that there is a positive correlation between the number of times a consumer is exposed to product advertisement and that consumer’s inclination to sample the new product. The very same principle applies to how we influence our target audiences when we conduct COIN.

And those “thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs” appear to serve Baker’s strategy, which states: “Repetition is a key tenet of IO execution, and the failure to constantly drive home a consistent message dilutes the impact on the target audiences.”

Of course, the Web has become a huge media platform, and the Pentagon and other government agencies are influencing news on the web as well. Documents released by Snowden show that spiesmanipulate polls, website popularity and pageview counts, censor videos they don’t like and amplifymessages they do.

The CIA and other government agencies also put enormous energy into pushing propaganda throughmovies, television and video games.

In 2012, the Pentagon launched a massive smear campaign against USA Today reporters investigating unlawful domestic propaganda by the Pentagon.

Notes

(1) One of the most common uses of propaganda is to sell unnecessary and counter-productive wars. Given that the American media is always pro-war, mainstream publishers, producers, editors, and reporters are willing participants.

(2) A 4-part BBC documentary called the “Century of the Self” shows that an American – Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays – created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions, and the U.S. government has extensively used his techniques.

(3) Sometimes, the government plants disinformation in American media in order to mislead foreigners. For example, an official government summary of America’s overthrow of the democratically-elected president of Iran in the 1950′s states, “In cooperation with the Department of State, CIA had several articles planted in major American newspapers and magazines which, when reproduced in Iran, had the desired psychological effect in Iran and contributed to the war of nerves against Mossadeq” (page x).

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Fidel Castro, el «héroe de los desheredados»

November 30th, 2016 by Salim Lamrani

Stéphane Fontaine Le Quotidien de La Réunion

Profesor de la Universidad de La Reunión, especialista de Cuba, Salim Lamrani evoca el legado de Fidel Castro y lo que simboliza en Cuba y en otros países.*

Profesor en la Universidad de La Reunión y autor de nueve libros sobre Cuba, Salim Lamrani tuvo dos encuentros con Fidel Castro en 2005 y 2006. Este doctor en Estudios ibéricos y latinoamericanos de la Universidad Paris-Sorbonne, periodista y especialista de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos, está considerado por Ignacio Ramonet, exdirector de Le Monde diplomatique, quien hizo el prólogo de su último libro, “el mejor conocedor en Francia de las realidades de Cuba”.

Es difícil resumir en algunas palabras lo que representaba un hombre con semejante aura y con tanta longevidad política. Según usted, ¿qué imagen dejará Fidel Castro entre los cubanos?

Salim Lamrani: Fidel Castro quedará en la Historia de Cuba como el arquitecto de la soberanía nacional que hizo de su isla una nación independiente y que defendió hasta los últimos instantes de su existencia el derecho de los cubanos a la dignidad. Cuba es hoy un símbolo de resistencia a la opresión y un vector de la aspiración de los pueblos del Sur a la autodeterminación.

¿Cuáles son los logros políticos de Fidel Castro?

SL: Además de haber conquistado la independencia nacional tan esperada y haber realizado de este modo el sueño del héroe nacional cubano José Martí, Fidel Castro elaboró un sistema social considerado por todas las grandes instituciones internacionales el ejemplo a seguir para los países del Tercer Mundo. Al universalizar el acceso a la educación, a la salud, a la cultura, al deporte y a la recreación, al ubicar al ser humano en el centro del proyecto emancipador, el líder de la Revolución Cubana demostró que era posible edificar una sociedad más justa a pesar de los recursos limitados y del estado de sitio económico que impone Estados Unidos desde hace más de medio siglo.

Fidel Castro, además de ser un reformador social, fue un internacionalista solidario que siempre tendió una mano fraterna a los pueblos del Sur, particularmente a los pueblos de África austral, Angola, Namibia y Sudáfrica en su lucha por la libertad.

En una época en que la lucha contra el cambio climática es una prioridad absoluta, Fidel Castro quedará en la historia como quien hizo de Cuba el único país del mundo en alcanzar un desarrollo sostenible, según la organización de protección del entorno World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF).

¿Cuáles son sus fracasos, sus sombras?

SL: Cuba siempre ha vivido bajo la amenaza constante del poderoso vecino estadounidense desde hace más de medio siglo. Ha sido entonces en este contexto de hostilidad exacerbada que el pueblo cubano ha elaborado su proyecto de sociedad, con grandes logros pero también con algunos fracasos. Como en todo proceso revolucionario se cometieron errores en Cuba, que atravesó periodos más oscuros, particularmente en los años 1970, cuando los intelectuales fueron víctimas del ostracismo.

Ambos tenían la misma edad y eran dirigentes de un partido comunista en una isla, se conocieron y fallecieron en noviembre de 2016. Más allá de estos puntos comunes, ¿qué paralelo se puede hacer entre Fidel Castro y Paul Vergès?

SL: Fidel Castro y Paul Vergès eran ambos dos grandes defensores de la dignidad de su pueblo, de su identidad y de su cultura. Ambos reivindicaron el derecho de los humildes a una vida mejor. Ambos expresaron una solidaridad inquebrantable hacia los pueblos que luchaban por su emancipación. Ambos contribuyeron a la edificación de una sociedad menos injusta y defendieron la generosa idea de una mejor repartición de las riquezas.

Desde que Fidel Castro se retiró del poder, Cuba ha establecido un proceso de acercamiento con Estados Unidos. ¿Cómo pueden evolucionar Cuba en sus relaciones con el gran vecino estadounidense y el resto del mundo ahora que el “Líder Máximo” ya no está?

SL: La desaparición de Fidel Castro no tendrá mucha influencia en la evolución de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos pues el Líder de la Revolución cubano se había retirado de modo definitivo del poder desde 2008.

¿Acaso Raúl Castro, que tiene una edad avanzada, puede suceder a su hermano de modo duradero?

SL: Raúl Castro fue elegido presidente en 2008 y reelegido en 2013, tras un periodo interino de dos años después de la enfermedad de Fidel Castro en 2006. El mandato de Raúl Castro terminará en 2018 y anunció varias veces que no se volverá a presentar. Cuba tendrá entonces un nuevo presidente en 2018.

Después de más de sesenta años de reinado de un solo hombre y luego de su hermano, ¿son posibles elecciones en Cuba?

SL: Contrariamente a una idea preconcebida, Cuba ha tenido al menos cuatro presidentes de la República desde 1959: Manuel Urrutia de enero de 1959 a julio de 1959, Osvaldo Dorticós de julio de 1959 a 1976, Fidel Castro de 1976 a 2006 y Raúl Castro desde 2006, cuyo Gobierno terminará en 2018 tras la reforma constitucional que limita el número de mandatos a dos. Conviene recordar que hay elecciones municipales, provinciales, legislativas y presidenciales en Cuba cada cinco años desde 1976.

¿Cuáles son las principales figuras que pueden encarnar el futuro en la clase política cubana?

SL: Miguel Díaz-Canel, político que nació en 1960, entonces tras el triunfo de la Revolución, es el actual vicepresidente. Debería ser el principal candidato a la sucesión de Raúl Castro, pero serán los cubanos quienes lo decidan.

 

*Doctor en Estudios Ibéricos y Latinoamericanos de la Universidad Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani es profesor titular de la Universidad de La Reunión y periodista, especialista de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Su último libro se titula Cuba, ¡palabra a la defensa!, Hondarribia, Editorial Hiru, 2016.

http://www.tiendaeditorialhiru.com/informe/336-cuba-palabra-a-la-defensa.html

Contacto: [email protected] ; [email protected]

Página Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel

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Aleppo-escape

The Liberation of Aleppo: Tears, Hugs and Smiles, the Relief of Escaping Imprisonment in East Aleppo

By Vanessa Beeley, November 30 2016

These images and videos will never see the light of day in the corporate media editing rooms because they expose their almost six year narrative on Syria as one of the most criminal propaganda projects ever deployed against a sovereign nation, its people, its state and its national army.

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Syrian Government Forces Are Close to Full Liberation of Aleppo City

By South Front, November 30 2016

A large buildup of pro-government forces took place in southern Aleppo. Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba deployed a significant number of manpower to the area. This move has once against fueled massive speculations in pro-government media outlets that the Syrian army and its allies are going to advance in the direction of Khan Tuman. However, this move can be hardly expected in the near future.

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US-backed “Rebels” Face Defeat in Aleppo

By Bill Van Auken, November 29 2016

In what is being described as the worst defeat for US-backed forces since the outset of the war for regime-change in Syria nearly six years ago, government troops, backed by forces from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and Iraqi Shia militias, have retaken over 40 percent of eastern Aleppo, the last urban stronghold of the so-called “rebels.”

Bustan-al-Qasr-district-of-eastern-Aleppo

Aleppo: How US-Saudi Backed “Rebels” Target “Every Syrian”

By Eva Bartlett, November 30 2016

In early November, Fares Shehabi, a member of the Syrian parliament from Aleppo, organized a trip to Aleppo for 13 Western journalists, including myself, with security provided by forces in the Syrian Arab Army. While I had traveled to Aleppo independently as recently as July and August, for many others in the delegation, it was their first visit to the city or their first visit since the war on Syria began in 2011.

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Turkey Invades Syria to “Remove Bashar al-Assad”

By Adam Garrie, November 30 2016

President Erdogan of Turkey has issued a statement saying his troops have entered Syria with the intention of ousting President Assad. Turkey has been illegally running soldiers, artillery and infantry in and out of Syria for much of the duration of the present conflict. Now, however, the proxy and shadow war, which Turkey has been waging against the Syrian Arab Republic, has just become official.

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Video: Syrian Army and Kurdish YPG Attack Turkey-led Forces East of Aleppo

By South Front, November 30 2016

On November 29, the advance of Syrian government forces continued in eastern Aleppo. Following the previous gains, the Syrian army, Liwa al-Quds and other pro-government groups have further pushed to the militant held area and liberated Talat al Barakat and the Scientific Research housing area south of Jabal Badro and launched fresh operations at Tareeq al-Bab and at the Ma’saraniyah Youth Housing.

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New U.S. Troops Arrive in Yemen while Saudis Kill 13 more Civilians

November 30th, 2016 by American Herald Tribune

A report says more American military forces have arrived in Yemen’s port city of Aden to join the contingent of U.S. troops allegedly fighting al-Qaeda militants in the country’s south.

Yemen’s al-Masirah television channel published footage showing American troops arriving in Aden.

The report further said the new batch is apparently linked to the U.S. troops already deployed in al-Anad Airbase and other Yemeni areas, adding that the deployment is aimed at reinforcing the U.S. forces claiming to be fighting al-Qaeda terrorists.

The TV report added the development reveals the true intention of the U.S.-backed Saudi aggression against Yemen, which is to gain dominance over the Arabian Peninsula state and loot its wealth.

The deployment of U.S. troops to Yemen, the report said, shows Washington is pursuing its own interests in the war-torn country and seeks to expand its military presence there.

The Pentagon has been providing logistics and surveillance support to Saudi Arabia in its military aggression against Yemen, the kingdom’s impoverished southern neighbor, which has killed at least 11,400 civilians since its onset in March 2015, according to a latest tally by a Yemeni monitoring group.

In the latest development, Yemeni security and medical officials say at least 13 civilians have been killed by a Saudi-led military coalition air raid in a western port city.

The officials told the Associated Press on Monday that airstrikes hit two homes in rural areas north-east of Hodeida.

Among the victims are women and children, according to a medical official in al-Thawra hospital.

The airstrikes, which took place on Saturday, also destroyed telecommunications towers. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to speak to the press.

Yemen’s army and fighters of the popular committees have carried out retaliatory attacks against military positions on the Saudi territory amid the kingdom’s ongoing airstrikes.

According to Yemen’s al-Masirah news website, the Yemeni forces fired artillery shells at a Saudi army base in the southwestern region of Asir.

The Yemeni forces also launched mortar attacks against Saudi military positions in the southwestern province of Najran.

Yemeni snipers killed seven Saudi soldiers in Asir and the province of Jizan.

Meanwhile, the head of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council warned Saudi Arabia and the U.S. that the country’s forces are determined to reclaim its soil, one step at a time.

Saleh Ali al-Sammad made the remarks in a Facebook post, saying, sooner or later, Yemen will defeat all those who violate its sovereignty under whatever pretext.

“Yemen will take back its soil from Al Saud and its American masters,” he said.

Sammad was referring to the controversially close alliance between Riyadh and Washington, which has seen the latter generously arming the former during its unbridled bombing of Yemen and even lending advisory support to the bombardment.

The U.S. approved more than $20 billion in military sales to the kingdom in 2015 alone.

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A large buildup of pro-government forces took place in southern Aleppo. Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba deployed a significant number of manpower to the area. This move has once against fueled massive speculations in pro-government media outlets that the Syrian army and its allies are going to advance in the direction of Khan Tuman. However, this move can be hardly expected in the near future.

Now, the Syrian military’s main goal is to develop momentum in eastern Aleppo in order to push militants to surrender and to set a full-control over Aleppo city. Government forces deployed contingent in southern Aleppo to strengthen the pressure on militants in the southern part of eastern Aleppo pocket, tacking advantage on their lack of manpower and military supplies. While Jaish al-Fatah militant coalition will try repel government attacks in southern and northern directions, the Syrian military will likely launch a splitting attack in the direction of Aleppo Citadel, putting the end to the battle for Aleppo city.

Over 800 members of militant groups have laid down arms and surrendered to the Syrian government over last 48 hours.

ISIS announced on Tuesday that the terrorist group had captured 2 Turkish soldiers in the area west of al-Bab in the province of Aleppo. Later the Turkish Army confirmed that it had lost contact with 2 of its soldiers in northern Syria. The fate of military personnel is unknown.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan said on Tuesday that the Turkish Army and the so-called “FSA” entered Syria to put an end to the rule of “the tyrant al-Assad”. Erdogan’s statement highlighted Ankara’s pretension and most likely marked the end of tactical rapprochement between Turkey and Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance over the Syrian conflict that had taken place after Moscow imposed a sanction regime on the Erdogan regime last year. Now, Turkey will most likely make an attempt to defeat YPG and Syrian government forces deployed near al-Bab to open the way to capturing of this logistical hub.

The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces have liberated the village of Mid’ani from Jaish al-Islam militants in the Eastern Ghouta region of Rif Damascus province. Government forces are now advancing Hawsh Shalaq. The Syrian military has been preparing a major military operation to restore control over the whole region and has already deployed reinforcements for this. Sources say that up to 10,000 military personnel could be involved in the offensive.

The Syrian government is setting up control over the whole Western Ghouta region. On November 28, 29 and 30 groups of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham militants and their families were transferred from Khan al-Shih and Zakiyah to Idlib. Reports say militants from Muqalibah and Taiybah have agreed to hand over the villages to the Syrian government. Militant units deployed in Marranah will likely joint the deal.

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Major US newspapers reported Tuesday night that President-elect Donald Trump has selected Steven T. Mnuchin, a former Wall Street banker who served as Trump’s campaign finance chairman, to be the next secretary of the treasury, the most influential cabinet position in terms of economic policy and the jobs and living standards of working people. The appointment is to be formally unveiled on Wednesday.

This follows Trump’s appointment of Representative Tom Price of Georgia, a leading right-wing Republican and opponent of Medicare, to head the Department of Health and Human Services. This department oversees Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which account for the vast bulk of domestic social spending by the federal government.

There were also press reports that the much-rumored nomination of billionaire speculator Wilbur Ross as secretary of commerce would be announced shortly, and that Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a cabinet member in the George W. Bush administration, would be named as secretary of transportation.

Trump has already named another billionaire, school privatization advocate Betsy DeVos, wife of Amway heir Dick DeVos, to be secretary of education.

With these appointments, the general outlines of the new administration’s domestic policies are clear. Far from Trump’s demagogic claims that he would “drain the swamp,” the corrupt nexus between Wall Street and Washington is tighter than ever.

In many ways, the Trump administration represents the fusion between the two, with prominent members of the financial aristocracy, including three of the 500 or so US billionaires—Trump, Ross and DeVos—taking leading positions in the nation’s capital.

Every non-billionaire cabinet appointment announced by Trump is a millionaire or multi-millionaire. These include Senator Jeff Sessions, Representative Tom Price, Elaine Chao and, of course, Mnuchin, a former partner at Goldman Sachs worth upwards of $50 million.

Mnuchin is not the first Goldman Sachs veteran—and campaign insider—that Trump has named to a top position. Stephen Bannon, the campaign CEO and former head of the ultra-right Breitbart News, may be said to represent the fascist wing of Wall Street, while Mnuchin represents its more conventional establishment wing.

In selecting a Goldman Sachs alumnus to head the Treasury, Trump is following the example of George W. Bush, who appointed Henry Paulson, and Bill Clinton, who appointed Robert Rubin. Mnuchin’s father and brother had long careers at the firm, but Mnuchin left soon after becoming a partner, first working for billionaire George Soros (a prominent Clinton backer in 2016), then going west to make millions as a Hollywood financier, backing some highly profitable action films, including the X-Men franchise, as well as AvatarGravityand the execrable American Sniper .

One of his more controversial financial operations on the West Coast involved the takeover of the failed California mortgage lender IndyMac in 2009. He headed a group that bought IndyMac from government receivers, renamed it OneWest, pushed ruthlessly to foreclose on borrowers, and so improved the balance sheet that he sold the company to CIT in 2014 for more than twice the purchase price. Fair housing groups filed discrimination charges against OneWest for refusing to lend or refinance in certain minority areas.

When Mnuchin agreed last summer to head Trump’s fund-raising operation, he was widely criticized in Hollywood and Wall Street circles, which largely backed Democrat Hillary Clinton. Mnuchin himself had donated mainly to Democratic candidates, but knew Trump from previous business dealings. As he told Bloomberg Businessweek at the time, “Nobody’s going to be, like, ‘Well, why did he do this?’ if I end up in the administration.”

It is a virtual certainty that a Mnuchin Treasury will scrap the pretense of regulating Wall Street that was mounted by the Obama administration and the Democrats through passage of the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking bill. The only institutional change accomplished by Dodd-Frank, and a minor one, the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is likely to be reversed.

While the Trump administration gives Wall Street free rein, it will deepen the attacks on health care for working people that have already reached a new level under the Obama administration. This is the significance of the nomination of Representative Price as secretary of health and human services.

As one headline put it, “Gutting Obamacare might be the least controversial part of Tom Price’s health care agenda.” A former orthopedic surgeon and six-term House member from the same wealthy Atlanta suburbs that elected Newt Gingrich, Price favors a completely market-based health care system, in which no one would be “entitled” to health care unless he or she had the money to pay for it, perhaps with the aid of a totally inadequate government voucher.

Like Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, a close ally whom he succeeded as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Price seeks to take advantage of the unpopular and reactionary character of Obamacare to launch a frontal assault on all federal health care programs, particularly Medicare and Medicaid, which underwrite health care for 130 million people, including the elderly, the poor and those suffering from the worst illnesses.

Under a program that the Republican-controlled Congress would likely enact, Trump would sign into law, and Price would administer, Medicaid would be ended as a federal entitlement program and transformed into separate block grants for each of the 50 states, which would be entirely free to reduce benefits and standards. Medicare would become a voucher program, similar to the Health Savings Accounts offered by many employers, with the federal contribution to purchase private insurance limited to a maximum of $3,000, leaving the bulk of the cost of health care to fall on the elderly.

Planned Parenthood, women’s rights groups, and gay and lesbian groups all denounced the Price nomination as a signal of the reactionary direction of the Trump administration, warning that it proposed to go back decades, or even half a century, in terms of family planning, abortion rights and other social issues.

Price is an adamant opponent of abortion under all circumstances. He introduced legislation to defund Planned Parenthood programs and as well as a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage. According to one report, he was so hostile to the idea that some women require financial assistance to pay for birth control that he challenged a reporter to “bring me one woman” who struggled to afford contraception.

He will be in charge of a department that sets policy on issues such as who can receive survivor’s benefits under Social Security, whether drugs like Plan B can be sold over the counter, and whether health insurance policies should cover birth control and abortion services.

These cabinet selections demonstrate the absurdity of all attempts by the Democrats to paint Trump in positive colors. This is to be a government of reaction all down the line, from extreme militarism in foreign policy to vicious attacks on jobs, living standards, social programs and democratic rights at home.

The two-faced character of the Democratic response to Trump was typified in comments by incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. He denounced the naming of Representative Price to run Health and Human Services, saying Price “has proven to be far out of the mainstream of what Americans want when it comes to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood.” At the same time, he hailed the selection of Elaine Chao to run the Department of Transportation, praising her “long history of service to our country.”

Schumer added, “Senate Democrats have said that if President-elect Trump is serious about a major infrastructure bill, backed by real dollars and not just tax credits and without cutting other programs like health care and education, that we are ready to work with his administration.” Actually, the Democrats are ready to work with Trump under all circumstances, and if they cannot find anything “positive” to support, they will invent something.

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the Turkish Army entered Syria to end the rule of President Bashar Assad, whom he accused of terrorism and causing the deaths of thousands.

“We entered [Syria] to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror. [We didn’t enter] for any other reason,” the Turkish president said at the first Inter-Parliamentary Jerusalem Platform Symposium in Istanbul, as quoted by Hurriyet daily.

Erdogan said that Turkey has no territorial claims in Syria, but instead wants to hand over power to the Syrian population, adding that Ankara is seeking to restore “justice.”

“Why did we enter? We do not have an eye on Syrian soil. The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice,” he said.

He went on to say that “in his estimation” almost 1 million people have died in the conflict in Syria, although no monitoring group has provided any similar figures. The latest UN estimate stands at 400,000 people killed in the five-year civil war.

Erdogan said that Turkey could not “endure” the unending killing of civilians and “had to enter Syria together with the Free Syrian Army.”

The Turkish leader also accused the UN of inability to influence the situation in Syria and said that the organization is ineffective in its current state.

“The world is bigger than five,” he said, referring to the number of permanent members on the UN Security Council, as reported by Hurriyet.

Turkish troops entered Syria on August 24, launching operation Euphrates Shield. Turkey deployed ground troops and air power to northern parts of its neighboring country, with the stated goal of retaking areas held by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

However, many observers have said that Ankara aims to suppress Kurdish forces in Syria and prevent them from connecting three de facto autonomous Kurdish areas into one enclave south of the Turkish border.

In October, Turkey’s air forces killed between 160 and 200 fighters of the Kurdish YPG militia group in 26 airstrikes conducted in just one night. The Turkish military campaign in Syria has also led to increasingly strained relations with Assad’s government.

Ankara was forced to halt air support for its ground incursion into Syria on October 22, after Damascus vowed to shoot down Turkish Air Force planes in Syrian skies, accusing Turkey of violating its national sovereignty.

Turkey in turn accused the Syrian Army of attacking FSA fighters in the northern Aleppo province.

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On November 28, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies officially surrendered the western Ghouta towns of Khan al-Shih and Zakiyah to government forces. In total about 3,000 militants and civilians were set to be evacuated to Idlib province from these villages via green buses. Militants had handed over at least two ZSU-23-4 Shilka guns and other military equipment the Syrian army.

On November 29, the advance of Syrian government forces continued in eastern Aleppo. Following the previous gains, the Syrian army, Liwa al-Quds and other pro-government groups have further pushed to the militant held area and liberated Talat al Barakat and the Scientific Research housing area south of Jabal Badro and launched fresh operations at Tareeq al-Bab and at the Ma’saraniyah Youth Housing

The army also keeps the option to split the remaining pocket into two, launching an advance in the direction of Aleppo Citadel. The control over strategic Police Hill in Marjeh allows government forces to launch such an operation.

Government engineers are working to relaunch the water pumping station in the Suleiman al-Halabi Neighborhood that was liberated from militants yesterday. “Moderate rebels” had used the control over the station to cut off the water supplies to the local population of Aleppo, punishing people avoiding to support adherents of al-Qaeda-style democracy. When the station is relaunched, the water crisis in Aleppo will end.

Separately, the Syrian army and the Kurdish YPG jointly waved flags over the highest building in the Bustan al-Pasha Neighborhood, confirming the recent facts of cooperation between two forces in Aleppo area. Following militants runaway from northeastern Aleppo, Kurdish YPG forces had entered some areas and filled the vacuum. Now, Syrian government forces and Kurdish YPG units have a joint-control over some points in Bustan al-Basha, al-Halek and Ayn al-Tell.

At the same time, the Syrian army and the Kurdish YPG advanced against Turkey-led militant coalition east of Aleppo city and captured the village of Azraq from it, deploying roughly 5km from al-Bab. With recent reports about airstrikes on the Turkish military by the Syrian Air Force in northern Syria and ongoing heavy clashes between Turkish forces and YPG units east of al-Bab, the army-YPG advance in the area delivers a major blow to Ankara’s hopes of military expansion in the war-torn country. In other case, this could lead to further military escalation if the Erdogan regime decides to deploy more military force to achieve its goals in Syria.

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 Somali immigrant Abdul Razak Ali Artan is alleged to have carried out an attack, injuring 11 until he was eventually shot dead by police.

Alleged alternative media platform, Breitbart News, immediately set to work to link the attack to “Islam” and “refugees” in articles like, “Ohio State Attacker Posted Anti-US Screed to Facebook Movements Before Attack.”

It mirrors similar, cherry-picked journalism Breitbart used to cover another attack carried out by a Somali-American in Minnesota earlier this year, in a wider campaign both Breitbart, and a larger segment of the establishment’s right cover are engaged in to reintroduce the Bush-era “clash of civilizations” narrative into the alternative media.

Yet neither Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s status as an alleged “Muslim” nor his being a Somali refugee had anything to do with his alleged radicalization.

The US and its Allies Radicalized Abdul Razak Ali Artan 

“Radical Islam” is a synonym for the legions of armed terrorists and ideological extremists cultivated by the United States and its Saudi and Qatari allies since the 1980s. Forming up organizations including Al Qaeda itself and its offshoots including Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria and the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS), these terrorists and ideological extremists have fought the proxy wars of the West and their allies from the mountains of Afghanistan to the shores of Libya, and everywhere in between.

These legions of terrorists and ideological extremists have also played an integral part in justifying the construction of an unprecedented, Western-wide domestic police state that , while predicated on “fighting terrorism,” has been utilized to wage war on all enemies, foreign and domestic, of Western special interests.

Regarding domestic terrorism in particular, it has been revealed that many “foiled” terrorist attacks have simply been Western security services entrapping and leading along suspects toward the execution of terrorist attacks. Often, at the last minute, firing pins are removed from weapons, and inert substances swapped with real explosives to avert successful attacks before dramatically arresting the suspects.

In other incidents, successful attacks are carried out by suspects long-known to security agencies, some of whom have known ties to terrorist organizations and are known to be involved in terrorist activity, but are otherwise inexplicably allowed to operate freely until carrying out their attacks.

Whether a “foiled” attack or a successful bloodbath, increased powers are transferred to Western governments while populations are further distracted and divided along religion, race, and politics, and indifference toward wars fought abroad grows.

The US Sought the Rise of ISIS 

And while Breitbart attempts to insinuate ISIS may have influenced Abdul Razak Ali Artan, it should be remembered who cultivated and ultimately created ISIS as a strategic asset in the first place.

A Department of Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo first published in 2012 (PDF) admitted:

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran). 

The DIA memo then explains exactly who this “Salafist principality’s” supporters are (and who its true enemies are):

The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.

It has been through a torrent of billions of dollars worth of weapons, supplies, and US-NATO trained terrorists that have sustained ISIS’ fighting capacity over the last several years. When a Syrian-Russian-Iranian coalition began shutting down the Turkish-Syrian border over which the summation of ISIS’ supplies crossed, Turkey organized and implemented a US-backed invasion of a “buffer zone” within Syrian territory to ensure the last supply corridor remained opened.

Image: ISIS terrorist wielding a US-made TOW anti-tank missile near Palmyra, eastern Syria.

Saudi Arabia and neighboring Qatar’s state sponsorship of not only armed terrorist organizations, but also indoctrination centers established around the world is the other variable unmentioned by the likes of Breitbart in the “radicalization” equation.

These centers, which could easily be differentiated from legitimate mosques by honest journalism and investigations by local law enforcement, their funding traced, and their facilities closed down, are instead used as recruiting centers – often right in the center of Western nations – to fill the ranks of Al Qaeda and ISIS, as well as manage and exploit extremists when they eventually return home. In addition to operating physical centers, they also produce an immense amount of propaganda used online, over radio waves, and on TV to attract and “radicalize” recruits.

If Abdul Razak Ali Artan was influenced by ISIS and Saudi-Qatari propaganda, or inspired by the deadly exploits of terrorists waging war abroad, who is to blame but the state sponsors of ISIS and those nations who prop up the Saudi-Qatari regimes – a terrorist organization and two nations that would not even exist without the immense and constant supply of political support, cash, and weaponry provided to them both from abroad?

Image: Shoulder-to-shoulder, literally, with Saudi state sponsors of terrorism, America’s “right” attend a rally in support of armed terrorist front, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) which kidnapped and killed US military officers, US civilian contractors, and hundreds of Iranian civilians. Many of these characters are regularly interviewed and their views promoted by Breitbart.

It is not “Islam” or “being Somali,” that allegedly incited Abdul Razak Ali Artan – if “ISIS” played a role in his “radicalization” – it was a toxic, geopolitically-motivated ideology created for the sole purpose of filling the ranks of a global mercenary force – not to achieve “Islamic hegemony,” but to augment America’s existing hegemony and threaten the influence, even the existence of America’s global competitors.

Perhaps the most tragic irony of the establishment’s attempt to retrench its talking points within the alternative media through cognitive infiltrators like Breitbart is that the majority of the Islamic World is victim to, not benefiting from such extremism. It is the sons and daughters of  Muslims serving on the front lines fighting extremists in cities like Aleppo, the edge of Damascus, and across Libya and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Breitbart’s editors sit comfortably at home, fulfilling US communication strategist Cass Sunstein’s dream of infiltrating and disrupting the alternative media – diverting attention away from the real money and power driving terrorism, and instead implicating Islam – as if US-made TOW anti-tank missiles were summoned from the pages of the Qu’ran, and not delivered from an armory in Saudi Arabia, stocked by their American allies – including those Americans who regularly appear in Breitbart interviews.

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Under the leadership of Comandante Fidel Castro and his comrades, Cuba has played an outsized role in supporting revolutionary and progressive movements around the world, far greater than might be expected from a relatively small country. Some of Revolutionary Cuba’s actions are well-known, such as the its role in defeating the CIA/South African attempt to conquer Angola in the 1970s and 80s. The decisive Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was not only a victory for the Angolan people, it was also a key factor in the downfall of the apartheid regime in South Africa itself. Cuba’s solidarity with numerous movements in Latin America is widely documented.

Less known, is the long history of Cuba’s solidarity with the Palestinian and other struggles in the Middle East and North Africa, a history that began only months after the 1959 revolution. A few months after the triumph, Raul Castro and Che Guevara visited Cairo, making contact with African liberation movements based there, and also visited Gaza, then under Egyptian administration, expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

Cuba saluted the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964, and established ties with the FATAH movement the following year. A close alliance was developed between Cuba and the leftist government of Syria in the late 1960s, and at the time both supported FATAH after it became the dominant force in the PLO. Cuba provided political, educational and military support to FATAH, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front (DFLP), the second and third largest organizations in the PLO.

The 1966 Havana-based Tricontinental Conference called for uniting the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America in a united struggle against “colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism.” In his closing speech Fidel spoke of “the warm support of the conference” for the Palestinian people.

Following the October 1973 war, Cuba broke diplomatic relations with Israel. The next year, Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the PLO was received as a head of state when he visited Havana, and later an Embassy of Palestine was established in Cuba.

In 1975, Cuba was one of the sponsors of UN Resolution 3379 that branded Zionism “a form of racism and racial discrimination,” and passed by a vote of 97-35-32.

Following the 1978 Camp David Accord, which split Egypt away from the other Arab states and dealt a severe blow to the Palestinians, Cuba supported the “Steadfastness Front” made up of Syria, Libya, Algeria and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). Camp David paved the way for Israel’s murderous assault on Lebanon and the Palestinian refugee camps, which left over 30,000 people dead, and was condemned by the Cuban government.

Cuba gave strong support to the mass Palestinian Intifada that began in late 1987.

During Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, killing more than 1,460 Palestinians and wounding over 10,000, Fidel wrote, “Why does the government of this country (Israel) think that the world will be impervious to this macabre genocide that is being committed today against the Palestinian people?”

The major Palestinian organizations issued statements of mourning, and manifestations of solidarity took place across Palestine. The PFLP’s message, said much about Fidel Castro’s historic role:

“From Angola to South Africa, Palestine to Mozambique, Bolivia to El Salvador, Castro’s legacy of international revolutionary solidarity and struggle continues to serve as an example in practice that transcends borders toward revolution, democracy and socialism.”

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These images and videos will never see the light of day in the corporate media editing rooms because they expose their almost six year narrative on Syria as one of the most criminal propaganda projects ever deployed against a sovereign nation, its people, its state and its national army.

The prolonged dehumanization of the majority of the Syrian people, the exploitation of their children as cynical props to further the NATO & Gulf state geo-political objectives in the region, the overt and covert endorsement of NATO State-proxy terrorism, the tacit endorsement of economic terrorism via the illegal US/EU sanctions against Syria, all amount to crimes against Humanity and the Syrian people.

The #FakeNews “regime change” cohorts are seeing their pyramid of lies being dismantled stone by stone, by the very people they have been claiming to “protect” for almost six years.

This video shows the reactions of civilians, fleeing their four year imprisonment in East Aleppo, subjugated by various militant factions, funded by NATO states and led by Nusra Front aka Al Qaeda.  The first woman, collapses into tears, as she reaches the journalist.  These touching moments will be sullied by the corporate media reporting and accounting of events, as they desperately try to resuscitate their expiring Aleppo chronicles.

Translation of what is being said by Suleiman Milad

“They are saying God bless the army and they send their greetings to the army. They also said that there was no food and water where they were in eastern Aleppo between terrorist groups , they also said that terrorists treated them very bad and that the army helped them get out to safe areas. They also showed very big happiness seeing the interviewer who is a very famous war reporter in Syrian for Syrian official TV.”

The following images were taken of the fleeing civilians in the last 24 hours.

“Today, more civilians exited terrorists held areas, and reached to Hanano & Al-Sakhour which are under the control of the SAA in Aleppo.”

aleppo-escape-2aleppo-escape-3aleppo-escape-5aleppo-escape4

Sarah Abdallah, analyst and commentator, notes the following:

“Syrian Arab Army’s remarkable east Aleppo advancement continues:

Four more districts freed today, including the pivotal region of Sakhour. In the last 48 hours alone, 12 east Aleppo districts have been liberated. From one area to the next, the “moderate” terrorists are melting down. Most important news today though is the SAA’s recapture of the Suleiman al-Halabi Water Pumping Station. The Aleppo water crisis is over! Since 2012, Turkish-backed “jihadists” have withheld water from Aleppo’s residents as a means of blackmailing them into supporting the “revolution”. This has led to unprecedented levels of sickness and malnourishment. But now, the SAA has restored water to more than one million people as it moves ever-closer to freeing Aleppo entirely.

21st Century Wire will continue to post brief but informative updates as we receive them from known and verified sources on the ground in Aleppo and across Syria or the region.

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The Dangerous Bias of the “Unbiased” About Fidel’s Cuba

November 30th, 2016 by Prof Susan Babbitt

When I wrote an article on Cuba’s philosophical traditions, a left-wing friend, also a friend of Cuba, said I should acknowledge and address Cuba’s alleged human rights violations. Unless I did that I was presenting Fidel Castro as a “Messianic figure”. I am not being objective.

Ideas are Cuba’s best gift to the world. Fidel Castro expressed them, in deed, speech and theory. If I write about something Canada does well, should I discuss the residential school programs, or the suicide epidemic among youth (even in rich southern Ontario). These matter deeply to the country’s self-conception. Yet no one will accuse me of bias if I leave them out writing about philosophy in Canada.

In the case of Cuba, any positive reference, no matter what the topic, without equal space for Cuba’s human rights violations, is considered unfairly biased.

To be objective, we consider opposing positions. But the reality is that there exist careful, informed arguments that: Cuba is democratic, Fidel is not a dictator, Cuba`s human rights violations are exaggerated and not as serious as many other countries. The point is not that the arguments are sound. It is that they exist. They are made by intelligent, morally responsible scholars. They are not silly.

So the question is: When the “unbiased” make routine references to Cuba`s human rights violations, do they address these arguments? Do they know about them? If they do not, they are guilty of bad argument, and unfair bias. This is just a point about scholarship. The human rights criticisms against Cuba have been answered over and over again, in the UN, in documentaries (e.g. Saul Landau’s Will the real terrorist please stand up?) and in entire books. The responses are ignored.

Nonetheless, I am required to repeat the criticisms, in order to be considered fair when I make an argument about the value of Cuba’s philosophical traditions.

When my students want me to be objective, they are asking me to be fair. I should not rely upon personal likes and dislikes regarding, for example, their appearance and personalities. However, they do want me to follow my preferences for clear writing, good argument and serious research. These are also values. They can also be called biases.

When I first spent time in Cuba, I was criticized for talking to members of the Communist Party. To be objective, I should talk to dissidents. I considered this criticism. It was true that I wasn’t spending time with dissidents, but it was not true that I disregarded their ideas. Such ideas inform institutions I’d lived with my entire life – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), for example, which equates democracy and capitalism, never acknowledging, even remotely, opposing conceptions.

At that time, the Soviet Union had just collapsed, and Cuba had lost 85 percent of its trade almost overnight. The economic crisis was severe. It was easy to understand why people were discontented and why some were leaving for the US. It was much harder to understand those who refused to leave, who said they didn’t know where they were going but that they could not/would not turn back.

And there they were: warm, funny, likeable, and intelligent people, working for independence, without lights, pens, or enough food. I was more challenged by their stories than by those of the dissidents, which is not to disrespect the latter. I have spent more than two decades trying to understand what José Martí describes as the “heroism” of pursuing a line of thought “in an orderly way”, day by day, against the prevailing global orthodoxy. Even so, I am only beginning to understand.

Some researchers claim to make no value judgments. They listen to the stories of the people. I asked one in Cuba whether she interviewed members of the government or the Cuban Communist Party. She looked surprised and said no, not intentionally. She considered herself “non- judgmental,” and yet deliberately discounted some Cubans, without argument. Apparently this had not occurred to her.

Wherever Fidel Castro went in the world, including to Canada for Pierre Trudeau’s funeral, people poured into the streets, in the hundreds of thousands, or more. The “unbiased” wouldn’t have known about these events because they weren’t reported by CNN or the CBC. The “unbiased” won’t find the explanation for them either because it is not consistent with the “balance” being “unbiased” requires.

Castro said once that there are two struggles. One is the social, political and economic struggle for justice and independence. The other is the struggle for the story that will be told about the first struggle. Some say the second one is harder. Chinua Achebe wrote that there are some who rush to battle and some who tell the story afterward. Some think it is easy to control the story. But, he says, they are fools.

Those who know the truth about the Cuban Revolution must do the hard work of the second struggle. It won’t be just Cubans. But whether in the North or the South the struggle won’t be unbiased. It shouldn’t be unbiased. It has to forge more adequate concepts – some philosophical – which means disturbing the balance of comforting liberal certainties. Fidel Castro’s ideas are a vehicle.

Sue Babbitt is associate professor of philosophy at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, and author (most recently) of Humanism and Embodiment (Bloomsbury 2014) and José Martí, Ernesto ‘Che” Guevara and Global Development Ethics (Palgrave Macmillan 2014)

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Looking at US history over a fairly long period of time, it is easy to see the destructive path that has accompanied the expansion of the American empire over the last seventy years.

While World War II was still raging, US strategists were already planning their next steps in the international arena. The new target was immediately identified in the assault and the dismemberment of the Soviet empire. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet economic model as an alternative to the capitalist system, the West found itself faced with what was defined as ‘the end of’ history, and proceeded to act accordingly.

The delicate transition from bipolarity, the world-order system based on the United States and the Soviet Union occupying opposing poles, to a unipolar world order with Washington as the only superpower, was entrusted to George H. W. Bush. The main purpose was to reassure with special care the former Soviet empire, even as the Soviet Union plunged into chaos and poverty while the West preyed on her resources.

Not surprisingly, the 90’s represented a phase of major economic growth for the United States. Predictably, on that occasion, the national elite favored the election of a president, Bill Clinton, who was more attentive to domestic issues over international affairs. The American financial oligarchy sought to consolidate their economic fortunes by expanding as far as possible the Western financial model, especially with new virgin territory in the former Soviet republics yet to be conquered and exploited.

With the disintegration of the USSR, the United States had a decade to aspire to the utopia of global hegemony. Reviewing with the passage of time the convulsive period of the 90’s, the goal seemed one step away, almost within reach.

The means of conquest and expansion of the American empire generally consist of three domains: cultural, economic and military. With the end of the Soviet empire, there was no alternative left for the American imperialist capitalist system. From the point of view of cultural expansion, Washington had now no adversaries and could focus on the destruction of other countries thanks to the globalization of products like McDonald’s and Coca Cola in every corner of the planet.

Of course the consequences of an enlargement of the sphere of cultural influence led to the increased power of the economic system. In this sense, Washington’s domination in international financial institutions complemented the imposition of the American way of life on other countries. Due to the mechanisms of austerity arising from trap-loans issued by the IMF or World Bank, countries in serious economic difficulties have ended up being swallowed up by debt.

Too many nations have experienced the tragedy of an economic collapse due to the obligation to privatize or grant to foreign corporations the rights to exploit their primary resources – the long arm of Western governments. Such an economic model has generated an epidemic of predatory finance and speculation, enormously strengthening the domination of the capitalist system on the rest of the globe. It is not a coincidence that in 1995 the WTO was founded, which imposed conditions of trade that strongly favored the European powers and the American empire.

In the event of a failure of cultural or economic pressure, Washington has often opted for real military aggression. An act of war is the most explicit form of abuse and is normally reserved for nations that refuse to comply with Atlanticist directions. In this sense, towards the end of Clinton’s term, the tone of the presidency shifted from a predilection towards focussing on the economy to aggression against sovereign nations. The first victim was Somalia, then in short order followed by the bombing of Serbia and the breakup of Yugoslavia. A relatively new phase in the recent history of the United States began, whereby economic and cultural expansion gave way to the reign of destructive bombs and missiles.

Although the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia was successful, the US image in the world began to be diminished, including its cultural leadership. Military action always produces consequences in the functioning of international relations, although history is often written by the winners.

By the end of the 90’s, although no country was in a practical position to oppose a cultural, economic or military resistance against Washington, the first thoughts of an alternative alliance to the Western bloc were beginning to emerge. The United States, while sniffing the danger, did not change direction, committed as it was to the idea of a cultural imposition, which became even more pronounced as a result of the expansion of the Internet as well as the effects of economic globalization.

The decision to shift gears, accelerating the triad of cultural, economic and military pressure, was eloquently expressed by the elites with the controversial victory of George W. Bush in 2000.

The successor to Bill Clinton had necessarily to be a president with a strong military angle, a high capacity to expand the capitalist globalization model, and a huge sense of patriotism to spread American propaganda of every possible cultural form in every corner of the planet. The ultimate goal was to surround the Heartland (China + Russia + Eurasia generally) as was expressed by MacKinder, to control their resources. Thus began an uncertain mission, requiring the election of a president friendly to the project of a unipolar New World Order created by the elite.

In the following years, thanks to the September 11, 2001, Washington had a perfect way to expand its wars and terror to every corner of the world. Economic aggression experienced a further boost with the creation of the EURO, a maximal expression in the financial domain. The Internet and increasing growth of interconnectivity ended up accelerating globalization, centralizing even more decision-making power into a few hands. The sum of these factors made it possible to fruitfully continue the devastating work of evangelization according to the Western economic model.

Yet despite the apparent economic and cultural expansion of the United States, as well as an incessant war operation in Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2001, the dream of a triumphant march towards global hegemony began to suffer the first setbacks.

The economic or cultural factor began to no longer be sufficient, requiring the opting of an armed solution as in Afghanistan and Iraq, demonstrating in practice how the American empire was serious about expanding eastwards, expanding its ambitions and influence. In this cultural, economic and military march, Washington often ignored or underestimated the consequences of its actions thanks to its unique position as the world superpower. This is a strategic mistake that will cost the United States and its utopian dreams of global domination.

However, the earliest forms of Eurasian resistance already began to emerge in the mid 90’s, first with the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 1996 and then with the Eurasian Economic Union in 2000 (the first discussions began in 1994), two factors that changed the course of history several years later.

The Republic of China, thanks to the pressure resulting from globalization, became the global farm, accumulating wealth and rapidly becoming over the coming fifteen years the first global economic power. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, after a decade of hunger and hardship, elected Putin, a strongman emanating from the intense nationalistic view. Thanks to a protectionist attitude towards the economy and a strong determination to reinvigorate the military role of Russia, in the space of 15 years he brought Moscow to be global power status.

In the end, the Bush era, degraded by destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, has brought more harm than good in Washington. Bush laid the foundation for a process of unification of the opposing powers to American imperialism and forced them into each other’s’ arms (BRICS) to mount an effective counter to the cultural, economic and military action of the euro-American elites.

As well as unifying the enemies of Washington, the American home front was beginning to show signs of unrest, both economically and militarily. The two wars deeply shook Western public opinion, forcing the elite to propose a candidate representing rupture who was focused on internal needs. Obama has been the perfect representation of this intent.

Elected with less warlike intentions of Bush and the clear need to reform a financial system that was out of control, he has failed in both cases, dragging the world into an unending conflict while giving high finance absolute control over the levers of economic power. The Fed and the private banks have increased their power enormously under Obama, coming to determine directly the democratic order of even allied nations with mechanisms such as spread or the ability to print money at zero interest. Instead of regulating the perverse financial mechanisms, their influence has increased. Instead of trying to mediate with hostile nations, Obama embarked on a mission of nation-building, regime change and color revolutions, using the whole arsenal of soft-power at his disposal. these were of course intentional and deliberate choices.

Obama was forced to adopt new destabilization techniques to obscure their purpose in the eyes of the population without losing sight of the objectives of the elites established in the early 90’s. Drones, economic manipulation, TTIP, TTP, special forces, color revolutions, the Arab Spring, sanctions and cyber warfare – these have become the Obama administration’s modus operandi.

The key factor remains the possibility of denying direct involvement in wars harmful to the image of the United States and its continuing economic, cultural and military expansion. From here these techniques can be seen in 2010 in the Middle East and North Africa, the spread of speculation in some European countries, and drone attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. This is not to mention the hundreds of troops belonging to special forces spread over five continents and the coup financed and organized by the US government organs in Ukraine.

The Obama administration has been accelerating global hegemony by swapping tools, but the effects and causes have remained the same as, or even worse than, previous administrations.

Meanwhile, the economic unions, cultural and military between the three nations pioneer of anti-imperialism, Iran, China and Russia, have accelerated their strategic alignment as an instrument of deterrence against advancing American hegemony.

The war in Syria, combined with the worsening of the crisis with Russia, tensions with China in the South China Sea, and the aggressive posture toward Iran’s orbit of Shiite nations, have accelerated the erosion of American power. The main causes are the failed cultural model imposed through the Arab Spring; the economic coup in Ukraine (the nation is on the brink of bankruptcy); and the military impossibility of direct intervention in Syria. The United States, in the space of a decade, has found itself facing a reality no longer compatible with the plan of global hegemony.

The Trump victory fits into this decadent scenario. Are we facing a true revolutionary who intends to rid forever global hegemonic aims, or is he simply a well-thought-out pause, created by the elites to revitalize the economy, arrest the internal discontent in the country, and rebuild the army to resume the march toward global hegemony in 2020?

This is the typical million-dollar question that I tried to give an answer to in a previous article. At the moment, it is difficult to interpret and predict which path will be taken by the elected president. Both have many arguments to support them and can easily be disputed or accepted. Only time will tell if the reality around us is already now placed in a multipolar world order, or if we are in a convulsive transition phase in which the United States remains anchored to the role of global power hoping to preserve the ‘unipolar moment’ it began in 1989.

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Turkey Invades Syria to “Remove Bashar al-Assad”

November 30th, 2016 by Adam Garrie

President Erdogan of Turkey has issued a statement saying his troops have entered Syria with the intention of ousting President Assad.

Turkey has been illegally running soldiers, artillery and infantry in and out of Syria for much of the duration of the present conflict. Now, however, the proxy and shadow war, which Turkey has been waging against the Syrian Arab Republic, has just become official.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just announced that Turkish troops have entered Syria with the intention of removing President Assad from power. It is a formal declaration of war.

If this threat is genuine, the person who could lose power might not be Assad but Erdogan himself. This summer’s poorly organised coup attempt in Turkey was brought about by deep divisions in Turkish society, divisions sowed by Erdogan’s extreme and often manic policies. Although Erdogan has retaliated severely against many of the coup leaders and supporters, his position is far from being as stable as he might dream that it is.

Erdogan’s announcement comes shortly after Russia and Turkey reconciled following a period of highly strained diplomatic relations as a result of Turkey downing a Russian jet over Syria in 2015.

Part of the reconciliation agreement made between Presidents Putin and Erdogan, stated that the two countries will cooperate over Syria. If Turkey aims to use her military to oust Assad, this agreement is as good as dead, and what’s more, by declaring war on the legitimate government of Syria, Turkey is by extrapolation, declaring war on Russia.

The flippancy with which Erdogan conducts foreign policy may well be his undoing. He is clearly fearful that when Donald Trump takes office, all of the major international players will be stacked against the mutual ambition of Turkey and the terrorists operating in Syria to remove Assad.

Erdogan is likely considering this as well as the fact that his attempt to gain a major foothold in northern Iraq isn’t going as planned. The western led coalition against ISIS in Mosul isn’t making the progress its leaders anticipated. Moreover, the Kurdish forces who Turkey has entered Iraq to eliminate, seem to be fighting rather better than Turkey and her US-European allies.

Equally crucial is the continued floundering of the so-called Free Syrian Army, a name generally assigned to the anti-government terrorists in Syria who are working most closely with Turkey. Since they seem incapable of doing Turkey’s bidding, Turkey may be looking to do the job themselves.

Not since America threatened to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, something which would have grounded Russian and Syrian planes, has the situation in Syria come so close a major fight between large powers.

There are, however, two areas from which hope can be derived. First of all, Erdogan is known for blustery, bellicose and threatening rhetoric, aimed more at his domestic supporters than an international audience. This could be one of those instances.

Secondly, members of the Russian government, perhaps even President Putin himself, must speak directly with Erdogan and explain the full consequences of his actions. It could bring Turkish troops into direct conflict with not only Russian and Syria armed forces but also with those of Iran and Hezbollah.

With the US all but conceding ground in the conflict, as the Syrian and Russian forces make staggering breakthroughs in Aleppo, Turkish forces could rapidly find themselves outnumbered by opponents as worthy as they are angry.

If things go badly for Turkey in Syria, it could lead to a far more organised coup against Erdogan, one that he might not see off. Erdogan has time and again proved to be something of a madman. His next move will determine whether or not he is also a stupid man.

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The Dangerous Deception Called “The Trump Presidency”

November 30th, 2016 by F. William Engdahl

The project called the Trump Presidency has just two months before its formal beginning. Yet already the hopes and fantasies of much of the world are making him into something and someone Donald Trump most definitely is not.

Donald Trump is yet another project of the same bo2ring old patriarchs who try again and again to create a one world order that they control absolutely, a New World Order that one close Trump backer once referred to as universal fascism.

Ignore the sometimes fine rhetoric in some of his speeches. Talk is cheap. If we consider rather the agenda that’s taking form even in these very early days of cabinet naming, we can see that Donald Trump is the same agenda of war and global empire as Obama, as Bush before him, as Bill Clinton and Clinton’s “tutor”, George H.W. Bush before him. There is no good side to what the world is about to experience with President Trump.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, It’s Showtime!’ Today we give you Donald Trump.

He will tell you just what many of you want to hear. Trump the showman will tell you he will make America great again; Trump will say he will ship at least 3 million illegals back across the Rio Grande; Trump will introduce a bill to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization; Trump will bring jobs back to America from China and other low wage countries; Trump will sit down with Putin and work out some kind of a deal to calm things down; Trump will scrap the Iran nuclear deal of Obama…

Often during this election campaign, which was more a Hollywood “D1” grade movie than any honest debate of policies and ideas candidate Trump made statements that resonated with the “silent majority” of not only so-called blue collar workers, but also the disenfranchised middle class whose earnings have been declining in real terms since the 1970’s. Trump, like an earlier actor-President named Ronald Reagan, has a talent to make himself sound sincere.

Is Trump a Grassroots Revolution? 

We should not imagine for one second that the Patriarchy– those loveless old men like David Rockefeller or George Herbert Walker Bush or unnamed others– were so overwhelmed by the political genius of candidate Trump emerging from every scandal more powerful than before, that they were surprised, out-foxed, and just groaned and let it happen.

The Trump Presidency has been planned in minute detail by them and their think tanks. Quite simply, had they continued the policies that Hillary Clinton represented–war and confrontation against Russia, against China, with Color Revolution destabilizations of any and all political leaders who opposed them whether Ghaddafi or Mubarak or even Putin–they saw they were losing power over huge parts of the world, essential geopolitical power.

When a President of the relatively tiny American former colony fears not to openly attack by name an American President as “son of a whore,” and declare in China his Philippines’ “separation” from the United States, when one country after the other comes closer in economic and political cooperation to Russia, to China and to their growing Eurasian economic cohesion around the One Bridge One Road Eurasian infrastructure great project, it was clearly time to install a Plan B President.

That Plan B is casino mogul Donald1 Trump, a political tabula rasa, a power-possessed person with a blackmail potential that will keep him on program for them, an alpha male who is quite gifted at being able to make people fear.

If we were to use conventional psychological definitions I would say the word sociopath fits: “Antisocial personality disorder characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the culture.” Narcissism would be another apt term: “Extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration…” Read his own autobiography and his descriptions of his earlier antics with mob lawyer and mentor, Roy Cohn, at the cocaine-snorting Studio 54 and look more closely at his actual life history, not only what he dismisses as “locker room talk” eleven years ago with Billy Bush. He is definitely no JFK or Charles de Gaulle, not even close.

I state clearly my conviction, and please recall this as Trump Presidency policies unfold after January 20, 2017 to see if I am correct or not: Donald Trump was put into office to prepare America for war, a war the banks of Wall Street and the US military industrial complex are not presently in a position economically or industrially or otherwise, geopolitically, to win. His job will be to reposition the United States for them to reverse the trend to disintegration of American global hegemony, to, as the Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz Project for the New American Century put it in their September, 2000 report, “rebuild America’s defenses.”

To do that preparation, a deception strategy that will fatally weaken the developing deep bonds between Russia and China will be priority. It’s already begun. We have a friendly phone call from The Donald to Vladimir the Fearsome in Moscow. Russian media is euphoric about a new era in US-Russia relations after Obama. Then suddenly we hear the war-mongering NATO head, Stoltenberg, suddenly purr soothing words to Russia. Float the idea that California Congressman and Putin acquaintance, Dana Rohrabacher, is leaked as a possible Secretary of State1. It’s classic Kissinger Balance of Power geopolitics–seem to ally with the weaker of two mortal enemies, Russia, to isolate the stronger, China. Presumably Vladimir Putin is not so naïve or stupid as to fall for it, but that is the plot of Trump’s handlers. Such a strategy of preventing the growing Russia-China cooperation was urged by Zbigniew Brzezinski in a statement this past summer.

Because he’s been selected (and not by us dear voters) to play a definite role–to shift tactics of global domination according to the basics of the 1992 Bush-Wolfowitz Doctrine–preempting any nation or group of nations in Eurasia from challenging American Sole Superpower hegemony–the selection of his Cabinet and key policy advisers, is vital. Here we can already see the outlines of the cast of characters who have been chosen to fill out the theater play called Trump Presidency, and the emerging new plot for reconfiguring the Sole Superpower strategy.

The dramatis personae 

As of this writing, several key positions have been named. It includes three-star General Mike Flynn to be the President’s National Security Advisor; it includes Congressman Mike Pompeo of Kansas to be Director of Central Intelligence; it includes Jeff Sessions to be US Attorney General and it includes Stephen K. Bannon in a newly-created post as White House “Chief Strategist” and Senior Counsellor to the President.

In this article I’ll look closely at Mike Flynn, the former 3-star general who will be the all-important Trump National Security Advisor, sitting in the White House. Normally perceptive bloggers and analysts have greeted the Flynn appointment with cheers of joy. They cite his opposition to US covert support for ISIS and Islamic terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra; he is on record that the 2003 Iraq invasion was a “strategic mistake.” Moreover, Flynn is opposed to stirring up war with Russia and instead calls for waging war against ISIS and other radical terrorist organizations. In fact Obama fired Flynn as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency when Flynn opposed the Obama decision to prioritize the anti-Russia war over the anti-Jihad war, and called for cooperation with Syrian President Assad to that  end. 

Flynn’s position on war against ISIS and presumably also against the Muslim Brotherhood so beloved by Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration, is not one of a man of peace. Rather it is one of a cold, calculating military professional, a military professional who favors working with the Likud of Netanyahu to advance the global agenda of war.

Flynn’s statements on Assad and ISIS and Iraq must be interpreted not in a vacuum but in light of a military intelligence specialist who sees that the decades-long CIA and Pentagon policy of training Muslim Brotherhood and other fanatic Muslim-origin terrorists to wage surrogate wars of empire have backfired badly. Not only the CIA’s July 15 failed coup using networks of Turkey’s Fethullah Gülen, but rather every CIA-backed Jihad war from Secretary of State Clinton’s war against Mubarak, against Gaddafi, against most of the Islamic world to try to impose US-backed Muslim Brotherhood terror regimes loyal to Washington, has failed. The gross effect has been to drive much of the world away from Washington and their constant proxy wars.

An intelligent military strategist would say it’s time for another plan. This is what Flynn is about. He will advance a shift in Washington policy away from using Muslim Brotherhood and allied terror organizations towards more intimate restoration of full cooperation with Israel’s right-wing Netanyahu Likud government.

Walid Phares, Donald Trump’s adviser on terrorism, and Middle Eastern Affairs, told Egyptian media in comments reported by Ben Shapiro’s conservative US blog, The Daily Wire, that Donald Trump will back efforts to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, something the Obama Administration vehemently refused and prevented Congress from  doing. 

Anyone familiar with my latest book, The Lost Hegemon: Whom the gods would destroy, will know I am in no way a friend of the Muslim Brotherhood who have been in a dark alliance with the CIA since the 1950s. Yet reality is not simplistic as in, “my enemy’s enemy is my friend…” Walid Phares, Donald Trump’s key adviser on terrorism and the Middle East, is also a Senior Fellow of a small very pro-Netanyahu think tank called the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Foundation for Defense of Democracies? 

The Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, was created in the wake of September 11, 2001 by a former Republican National Committee communications director, Clifford May, in order to, as it declares on its website, “promote pluralism, defend democratic values, and fight the ideologies that drive terrorism.”

The notable point about the FDD, whose Senior Fellow, Walid Phares is guiding President-elect Trump on the Middle East and terrorism, is the money trail behind it. It was founded and financed by a group of US billionaires closely tied to Benjamin Netanyahu and his Israeli geopolitical agenda. The donors include the notorious Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas and Macau gambling casino mogul who according to the Israeli press gave the Trump campaign $25 million in the closing critical days. Other FDD financial backers include Jewish American with a long history of funding pro-Israel organizations: Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot; whiskey heirs Samuel and Edgar Bronfman; Wall Street billionaire speculators Michael Steinhardt and Paul Singer, and Leonard Abramson, founder of US  Healthcare. 

No surprise then that the main Washington think tank called on to testify against the Obama agenda of coming to a nuclear deal with Iran and lifting sanctions was the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who testified 17 times against the Iran plan. FDD’s executive director, Mark Dubowitz, even helped design the sanctions regime on Iran and its oil sales that was put in place in 2010.

In addition, most other positions of the FDD echo those of the Netanyahu regime in Tel Aviv. Toby Dershowitz, who spent 14 years as AIPAC’s communications head, is the FDD vice president for government relations and strategy. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was described by John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago professor, as “an agent of the Israeli government with a stranglehold on the United States Congress with its power and influence.” Trump was a featured speaker at the March 2016 AIPAC annual  meeting. 

Mike Flynn and Mike Ledeen 

Now we return to the anti-Muslim Brotherhood National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn. Flynn, along with CIA director-designate Mike Pompeo, agrees that the Obama Iran nuclear deal should be scrapped and calls Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, a position dear to Netanyahu’s heart.

Flynn also wrote a book together with Michael Ledeen. One doesn’t co-author a book with just anyone. I know. It has to be one whose thoughts are in full harmony with yours. Michael Ledeen is today a Freedom Scholar at, now isn’t this interesting: the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Worth noting, financial investor, Jim Rickards, also is on the Board of Advisors of the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance at the  Foundation for Defense of Democracies,  and former CIA Director James Woolsey, rumored being considered for a top post with the Trump project, is one of four members of the FDD Leadership Council.

This year, 2016, Ledeen co-authored a book with NSC Director-designate Mike Flynn titled, Field of Fight: How to Win the War Against Radical Islam and its Allies. The ties between Ledeen and Trump NSC director are clearly not casual.

Years ago Ledeen–who was implicated in the illegal Iran-Contra arm for cocaine dealings of G.H.W. Bush and his CIA Old Boys network during the  Reagan years  — wrote a doctoral dissertation which I once saw, today almost impossible to find. It was titled “Universal Fascism,” and dealt with the applicability of Italian fascism of Mussolini to a global model, a fascist one world order if you will.

Michael Ledeen, who prefers to be in the background, is perhaps best characterized as a Godfather of the neoconservatives. He has shaped the policies of the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and others of the US war faction.

In 2003 just as the Bush-Cheney-Wolfowitz war on Iraq was underway, Ledeen gave a speech titled, “Time to Focus on Iran — The Mother of Modern Terrorism,” for the pro-Netanyahu Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) in which he declared, “the time for diplomacy is at an end; it is time for a free Iran, free Syria and free Lebanon.” To “free” Iran, Syria and Lebanon back in 2003, almost a decade before the US war against Assad, Ledeen declared that Iraq, Iran and Syria should get their “freedom” through a US-led “total War.”

According to reports of those near the cabinet selection process of president-elect Donald Trump, two people have decisive influence on who is being selected—Trump’s 35-year-old politically inexperienced son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Mike Flynn. Trump has even asked those two to sit in with him on those highly classified Presidential  briefings. 

Winston Churchill once said, “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” It is already clear that the project of the Trump Presidency, to prepare America for a new war, is already being well attended by a bodyguard of lies.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”

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Syrian “US-backed rebel group” Nour al-Din al-Zenki became widely known past July after beheading a child near Aleppo city and posting the video of this.

Initially, some mainstream media attempted to defend the ‘moderate opposition group’, explaining that it was a “mistake” and an isolated case.

However, under the pressure of public opinion, the US State Department was pushed to announce that the US may consider withdrawing its support from “rebels” if reports of beheading of 14-year old boy are confirmed.

Nour al-Din al-Zenki was a “CIA-vetted” group and was receiving TOW missiles through the CIA program.

The subsequent developments showed that child beheadings are not enough reason for the CIA to withdraw its support from Nour al-Din al-Zenki.

The group continues to use US-supplied TOW missiles.

On November 21, the group’s official Twitter page released a photo of group member, using a US-supplied missile.

Then, “moderate rebels” published a video, confirming this.

Sentense: Considering high intensity of battles in which the group is involved in Syria (for example in Aleppo city and in its countryside), there are almost no doubts that it uses newly-delivered missiles

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In early November, Fares Shehabi, a member of the Syrian parliament from Aleppo, organized a trip to Aleppo for 13 Western journalists, including myself, with security provided by forces in the Syrian Arab Army.

While I had traveled to Aleppo independently as recently as July and August, for many others in the delegation, it was their first visit to the city or their first visit since the war on Syria began in 2011.

On previous visits to Aleppo, I met with the Aleppo Medical Association and saw a maternity hospital hit twice by rocket and mortar attacks by militants under Jaysh al-Fatah (the Army of Conquest), a loose alliance of anti-government terrorist groups. I met with members of a branch of the Syria Civil Defense and Christian and Muslim religious leaders. Just north of the city, I visited Nubl and Zahraa, towns besieged for more than three years by the Free Syrian Army, the Nusra Front, and other affiliated terrorist factions before the Syrian Arab Army drove them out in February of this year. I saw the liberated region of Bani Zaid and the al-Layramoun industrial district. I interacted with civilians in public parks, streets, and markets.

Ahead of my trip earlier this month, I was interested to see what might have changed following the liberation of still more areas by the SAA. I also hoped to speak with civilians who had fled the terrorist-held areas of Aleppo’s eastern districts since I had last visited, during which time eight humanitarian corridors had been established for civilians and members of terrorist factions willing to relinquish their arms or to accept safe passage to areas in Idlib and government-secured parts of western Aleppo.

However, on Nov. 4, no one fled terrorist-held areas of Aleppo. Family members of civilians still there say their loved ones are being used as human shields by groups like the Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, or Nour al-Din al-Zenki — the so-called “moderate rebels” and “opposition forces” backed by the United States, NATO, Israel and Gulf allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Returning to Aleppo

Syrian citizens gather at the scene where two blasts exploded in the pro-government neighborhood of Zahraa, in Homs province, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016. Two blasts in the central Syrian city of Homs killed more than a dozen people and injured many others in a wave of violence. (SANA via AP)

From Damascus, the bus traveled along smooth, paved roads to Homs, where we passed the entrance to Zahraa, a neighborhood plagued by terrorist car and suicide bombs. Moving out of Homs, we continued eastward along a narrow road for about an hour until we reached the Ithriya-Khanasser road, and the last leg of the trip to Aleppo.

Though the Ithriya-Khanasser road was flanked by the wreckage of buses and cars, attacked mostly by Da’esh (an Arabic acronym for the extremist group commonly referred to in the West as ISIS or ISIL) in recent years, and although Da’esh continues to creep onto sections of the road at night to lay mines, our travel there was without incident.

When I reached the southeastern suburb of Ramouseh in July, it was by taxi. The driver sped through the suburb, fearing Nusra Front snipers less than a kilometer away. He floored it for at least 500 meters, speeding through risky spots and weaving in and out of a valley in perfect range of terrorist shellings, ultimately reaching an SAA checkpoint before entering Greater Aleppo.

Castello Road was only means of entering Aleppo in August. The road, which runs into the northern part of the city, had recently been secured but still threatened by terrorist shelling.

Ramouseh was re-secured prior to our November visit, and again became the main means of entering Aleppo. In November, we traveled by bus, escorted by security, and the threat of snipers was weakened by SAA advances in recent months. Above the sniper embankment of barrels and sandbags, I had a clearer view toward Sheikh Saeed district — areas which terrorist factions had long occupied and from which they sniped and shelled Ramouseh.

One of our first stops was the Aleppo Chamber of Industry, where MP Shehabi outlined the systematic looting of Aleppo’s factories.

According to Shehabi, of the 70,000 small to large enterprises and factories which once thrived in Aleppo, only about half have survived that widespread destruction and gutting of factories. Of the roughly 35,000 enterprises now operating in Aleppo, he estimated that only about 7,000 are factories and they’re operating at just 15 percent capacity.

Shehabi said the Chamber has photo and video evidence of burglaries in factories. He continued:

“We documented the transfer of our heavy equipment, production equipment, like power generators, like textile machinery. These are heavy, not something you can smuggle easily. These would be on the highway, under the monitoring of Turkish police. Stolen production lines, how can you allow stolen production lines to enter your country without any paperwork?”

The Chamber, along with other Syrian industry associations, filed a lawsuit against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in European courts in 2013, seeking damages. That lawsuit and others launched by Syrian authorities accuse Erdoğan of not just harboring terrorists, but allowing and even enabling them to enter Syria to destroy or disassemble factories and return to Turkey with stolen machinery and hardware.

None of these legal proceedings have been resolved, and Shehabi describes the Chamber’s lawsuit as “stumbling.” Shehabi was among four of Aleppo’s top businessmen to be hit with EU sanctions in 2011. These sanctions, the MP said, represent a hurdle preventing a fair resolution.

The Chamber now operates out of a rented villa, as the historic building which housed the Chamber of Industry in the Old City was destroyed on April 27, 2014, when explosives were denoted in an underground tunnel. Shehabi said he had gone on Syrian national television, calling on governments to impose a commercial boycott of Turkey, about two weeks prior to the attack.

“They didn’t bomb the building next to it, there was only one security guard inside [no military personnel], and it’s not at the frontline, so why bomb it?” he asked, noting his suspicion that the Chamber had been deliberately targeted due to the legal action it was taking against Erdoğan.

The FSA’s underground prison in al-Layramoun

We walked through the ornately-carved entrance of a building in the al-Layramoun industrial district that once housed a dye factory. More recently, though, it’s been used as a base by the 16th Division of the Free Syrian Army. In an interior room, I noticed a 4G mobile phone card from Turkcell, Turkey’s leading mobile phone operator.

In neighboring buildings we saw bags of materials reportedly used to make the gas canister and water heater explosives known colloquially as Hell 1 and Hell 2, the latter of which can inflict significantly more damage, including leveling entire floors of houses. There were also metal fragments, which are added to explosives to inflict maximum damage. Another room contained a pile of shavings which one of the Syrian soldiers accompanying us said was used to compress explosives in the gas canister bombs which the Free Syrian Army and other terrorist groups fire upon neighborhoods in greater Aleppo.

When we approached the Nusra Front-occupied road leading toward Daher Abed Rabbo, SAA soldiers advised us to run, not walk.

Just beyond that road, bunkered three stories below ground, the Free Syrian Army’s nightmarish improvised prison for SAA captives was untouched by the bombs inflicting damage above-ground. These attacks target terrorists who fire on the civilians of Aleppo and retreat underground.

Al-Layramoun and Bani Zaid are home to the same landscape of battered buildings that one finds in areas where militants have bunkered deeply down. Seeing the destruction, some of the other journalists in our delegation mention only the physical damage to the buildings. “Buildings lay pancaked by airstrikes,” one wrote, pointing an incriminating finger at the Syrian government without giving any context as to why these areas were hammered.

The real shame is not actually the physical destruction of buildings, but the incursion into these districts by Western-backed terrorists, including the Free Syrian Army, the Nusra Front, and Da’esh, among others. Nearly six years into the needless bloodshed, their criminal and savage acts against Syrian civilians and soldiers are well-documented. And it’s common knowledge that they bunker down to avoid airstrikes.

The Free Syrian Army’s nine suffocating, improvised metal solitary confinement cells and three rooms used as regular cells in the underground prison bunker in al-Layramoun were all intact despite the aerial bombings. Buildings are devastated above-ground because of the presence of militants deep underground, where airstrikes inflict considerably less damage.

18 killed in Nov. 3 terror attacks 

On the afternoon of Nov. 3, after meeting with Dr. Mohammed Batikh, director of Al-Razi Hospital, the victims of terror attacks which had begun a few hours prior began to arrive one after another, maimed and critically injured. The vehicle bombings and bombardment of Grad missiles, among other attacks, left 18 people dead and more than 200 injured, according to Dr. Zaher Hajo, the head of forensic medicine at Al-Razi Hospital.

The body of a civilian who was killed in the Nov. 3 attacks in Aleppo. Nov. 3, 2016. (Photo: Eva Bartlett)

The corridors and emergency ward at Al-Razi Hospital, one of two state-run hospitals in Aleppo, quickly became clogged with the injured and grieving family members. In one crowded interior corridor, one of the wounded screamed out in pain: “Ya, Allah! Ya, Allah!”

In another corridor, a 15-year-old boy with a cast on one leg and bandages on his head, said the mortar attack which injured him had killed his 4-year-old cousin and left his 6-year-old cousin with critical injuries.

In a front room, a mother wailed for her son who had suffered severe injuries. She screamed and pleaded for someone to save him, her only son. Not long after, though, the news came in: the 26-year-old had died. Her son, a doctor, was not the first medical professional to die in terrorists’ routine bombings of Aleppo neighborhoods.

Dr. Nabil Antaki, a gastroenterologist from Aleppo, with whom I met on my trips to Aleppo in July and August, messaged me in October about his friend and colleague, Dr. Omar, who was injured on Oct. 6 when terrorist factions unleashed an attack on Jamiliye Street, killing 10 people. Just a few days after the attack, Dr. Omar, too, died.

At the morgue behind Al-Razi Hospital on Nov. 3, inconsolable family members leaned against the wall or sat on the pavement, coming to grips with the deaths of loved ones.

One 14-year-old boy had been there on Nov. 2, when his father was killed. On Nov. 3, he returned when his mother was killed. Both of this boy’s parents are dead, both killed in terrorist attacks on the city’s New Aleppo district.

A man spoke of a 10-year-old nephew who was shot in the head by a terrorist sniper while the boy was on his roof.

A woman and her children leaned against an iron rail next to the door to the morgue, weeping over the death of her husband, their father, who was killed while parking a car. When the man’s mother arrived, she collapsed, shrieking in grief.

The body of a civilian who was killed in the Nov. 3 attacks in Aleppo. Nov. 3, 2016. (Photo: Eva Bartlett)

And in the midst of all of this, all these women and children, a car arrived at the morgue with the body of yet another victim of the day’s terror attacks, Mohammed Majd Darwish, 74. His upper body was so bloody that it was unclear whether he had been decapitated.

Near the morgue, Bashir Shehadeh, a man in his forties, said his family had been displaced already from Jisr al-Shughour, a city in Idlib. His mother, some of his friends, and his cousin have been killed by terrorist factions’ shellings. He said enough was enough, and called on the SAA to eliminate the terrorist threat.

Al-Razi’s Dr. Batikh said a private hospital, Al-Rajaa, was hit by a mortar attack. “They cannot do operations now, the operating room is out of service.”

One of the most notable attacks on hospitals was the December 2013 double truck bombing of Al-Kindi Hospital, the largest and best cancer treatment hospital in the Middle East. I have previously reported on other attacks on hospitals in Aleppo, including the May 3 rocket attack which gutted Al-Dabeet, a maternity hospital, killing three women. On Sept. 10, Dr. Antaki messaged me:

“Yesterday, a rocket, sent by the terrorists, hit a maternity hospital in Aleppo in Muhafazat Street. Two persons working in the hospital were injured. No death. But the point is that it is a hospital and it was hit by a rocket.”

Dr. Batikh and Dr. Mazen Rahmoun, deputy director of Al-Razi, said the hospital once had 68 ambulances, but now there are only six. The rest, they said, were either stolen by terrorist factions or destroyed.

Aleppo’s doctors continue to treat the daily influx of injured and ill patients in spite of the dearth of ambulances and effects of Western sanctions which mean a lack of medical equipment, replacement parts, and medicine for critical illnesses like cancer.

According to the hospital’s head forensic medicine, Dr. Hajo, in the last five years, 10,750 civilians have been killed in Aleppo, 40 percent of whom were women and children. In the past year alone, 328 children have been killed by terrorist shelling in Aleppo, and 45 children were killed by terrorist snipers.

Humanitarian Crossings: Shelling of Castello Road 

Less than 100 metres away, the second of two mortars fired by terrorist factions less than 1 km from Castello Road on Nov. 4. The road and humanitarian corridor were targeted at least six times that day by terrorist factions. Nov. 4, 2016. (Photo: Eva Bartlett)

On Nov. 4, prior to our 9:30 a.m. arrival at the Bustan al-Qasr crossing and until our departure an hour later, no one had been able to cross from the area just beyond crossing, which is occupied by Jaysh al-Fatah militants.

Two weeks prior to our arrival, journalists had reported that terrorist factions heavily shelled the crossing and areas around it starting in the early morning.

A Syrian general at the crossing confirmed that shelling had taken place on Oct. 20, adding that three police officers had been wounded. A journalist in the delegation asked the general what he would say to Syrian civilians like Bashir Shehadeh, who demanded that the SAA eliminate the terrorist factions.

“We need to be patient, because the civilians there are not able to leave, they are not guilty,” the general replied. “We don’t work the way that the terrorists work.”

Regarding the amnesty decree issued by President Bashar Assad in late July, the general explained that terrorists who want to be granted amnesty could lay down their arms. Those who choose to go on to Idlib would be granted safe passage by the Syrian government and army, in coordination with the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

According to the general, when two militants arrived at the Bustan al-Qasr crossing about two months ago, they surrendered their arms and proceeded under amnesty.

Five months ago, he said, 12 civilians crossed there, were treated in Aleppo’s hospitals, and returned to their homes in terrorist-held eastern Aleppo.

At the Castello Road humanitarian crossing, the large green buses which were said to be evacuating militants from areas of eastern Aleppo in recent weeks were there again, waiting to ferry away more. Ten ambulances, three buses, and 14 minivans were lined up in anticipation of any civilians or militants trying to leave terrorist-occupied areas, whether for safe passage elsewhere or to settle in government-secured areas of Aleppo.

Ten ambulances wait at the Castello Road crossing to treat anyone exiting via the humanitarian corridors established by the Syrian government and Russia, including militants who lay down their arms. Nov. 4, 2016. (Photo: Eva Bartlett)

George Sire, 25, an anesthesiologist at Salloum Hospital in Aleppo, was one of the volunteers who arrived at the crossing with five of the private hospital’s ambulances, at the request of the Syrian government.

When speaking with a Syrian commander about permitting men who had used arms against Syrian civilians and soldiers to lay down their arms and reconcile, he said they are sons of the country and urged them to reconcile.

At around 1:30 p.m. the first shell struck, hitting near Castello Road. About 10 minutes later, while I was being interviewed, a second hit, this time considerably closer, within 100 meters — close enough, in fact, to create a cloud of dark smoke over the road. It prompted security to usher me away from the road and move our delegation away from the crossing.

I later learned that another five shells targeted the crossing, injuring a Syrian journalist and two Russian soldiers.

No one passed through this or any of the other seven humanitarian corridors that day.

Displaced by terrorists

For around four years, simple shelters at the Hafez al-Assad Mosque have housed around 1,000 people, all Sunni families displaced from areas occupied by militants.

Most of those with whom I spoke listed similar reasons for leaving their homes and described being in fear for their lives because of the terrorist presence.

“They came and destroyed houses and killed civilians before they attacked the state. The army is protecting us, it’s the gangs [that] are the ones destroying the country,” one man told me.

He said his two brothers in terrorist-controlled areas in eastern Aleppo are “not allowed to leave.”

“They’ve tried many times but they are prevented. If the armed groups see anyone carrying luggage, they’ll arrest them right away.”

He and others at the shelter complained that, according to their family members, the terrorist factions horde and control any food within the areas they occupy.

Like elsewhere in the city, the shelter and area immediately surrounding the mosque are routinely hit with mortars and explosive bullets.

An older man led me around a corner, pointing to a spot where he said a 29-year-old man was killed by a terrorist-fired explosive bullet.

“He was standing here. His stomach was torn open,” he told me.

The Old City: Life among ruins

The small bus ferrying over a dozen journalists and a very alert special forces soldier, Ali, to the Old City at one point suddenly bolted ahead. A sniper was staked out to our left, in an area occupied by terrorist factions roughly 500 meters away, we were told.

After entering the Old City, and crossing a street shielded from sniper fire by an earthen embankment and a metal screen, at times the only means of continuing on in the Old City was by stepping through holes hammered into the walls connecting buildings. By crossing through buildings, we avoided the snipers who are ready fire on anyone who moves on the street.

Across the narrow street, a shock of greenery stood in stark contrast to the grey tones of destruction created by years of fighting against some of the worst terrorism the world has ever known.

Rami, a Syrian soldier from Banias, explained that he had planted herbs and green onions here as he did when he had been stationed along the desert-like Ithriya-Khanasser road in the past. Rami’s soft smile and kind demeanor betrayed his personal loss: a brother killed while serving in the SAA.

While walking through the government-secured areas of Aleppo’s Old City, we came across a single vendor, Mahmoud. He used to sell traditional Arabic musical instruments, but circumstances have forced him to abandon that business in favor of selling basic goods to roughly 25 customers per day. He refuses to leave the Old City, where he’s only about 200 meters from the Nusra Front and other Jaysh al-Fatah militants.

“I’m an ordinary person,” Mahmoud said. “They destroyed everything.”

Walking past devastated shop after devastated shop, and through the graceful arches of covered markets typical of old Syrian cities, MP Fares Shehabi pointed out:

“You see the blackened ceilings? That’s from when the terrorists withdrew. They set fires to stall the advance of the Syrian army, and also to try to hide their looting. They cannot accuse the army of having bombed here, the roof is intact.”

Exiting from this particular market area, we came to a sandbagged, partially-screened area. We were given stern orders not to move forward: The famous Aleppo Citadel was ahead, and to the left and right of our position at the destroyed Carlton Hotel, terrorist snipers lay in wait.

When terrorists detonated mass amounts of explosives in tunnels underneath the Carlton Hotel in May 2014, Col. Abu Majed told us that “all of Aleppo felt it.”

“They have bombed over 20 historic buildings via tunnels,” Shehabi said. “If they were real Syrians, they would not bomb historical buildings.”

At least 7,500 shops in the Old City are gone, lost to burning, looting and utter destruction. “That’s 7,500 families,” Shehabi reminded us.

Visiting frontline targeted areas

The Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo still has a gaping hole in one wall since being hit by terrorist shelling roughly two years ago. At the time of the attack, the congregation was inside worshipping, the choir singing.

The Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo has been targeted with shelling five times by terrorist groups, including the Nusra Front, that occupy areas just 500 meters away. The shelling that left this hole occurred two years ago, while congregation members were worshipping, the choir singing. At least 10 people were injured. Nov. 2, 2016 (Photo: Eva Bartlett)

A church leader said it had been targeted five times, the last incident apparently involving a rocket just a few weeks prior to our arrival. Terrorist factions were an estimated 300-500 meters away, he said.

He estimated that one-third of the 1,350 families who used to worship there have fled to other areas of Syria or abroad, mainly due to safety concerns.

“We were living in security and peace. These areas are being targeted, they want to force us to leave. Every Syrian is being targeted,” he told the delegation.

Some of the remaining congregation members have chosen to worship in a narrow corridor inside the building over the past two years.

Further in the city, the Maronite Church of Aleppo’s Bishop Joseph Topji said roughly two-thirds of his community of around 800 families have left, hoping to find safer conditions elsewhere.

Inside a building belonging to the church, Bishop Topji welcomed us and explained:

“We don’t have a church now. We used to have two churches, but both are destroyed. We only have this place, a chapel which holds around 70 people.”

Walking along darkened streets in Talal, an area historically rich with churches that are now destroyed or massively damaged, Shehabi urged caution: “We are 50 meters from al-Nusra. Beyond these buildings, the frontline.”

Rev. Ibrahim Nseir, pastor of the Arab Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo, led us through the Christian areas of Talal, reminding us to remain as silent as possible.

“No voices, because that will let them hear that we are here. It will be very dangerous,” he said quietly. “Quickly, ya eini… Please, everybody, quickly…”

We then took a bus to Midan district, where we walked along the darkened streets. Our Syrian military accompaniment urged the group to stay together and listen carefully.

As we walked, Rev. Nseir described attacks on schools and the area, an Armenian district, which was heavily hit.

“Here we are in one of the most targeted places,” he said, pointing out ruts in the ground from mortar strikes.

A local resident told us:

“On September 5, two gas canister bombs his this area, we had three martyrs, shebab around age 30. One was married with a 1-year-old child. Another was about to get married. Four days before his wedding, he was killed. Over six days in September, we received 85 shells.”

As we walked, Shehabi cautioned: “Bela dow, bela dow—no light. There’s a sniper, guys, there’s a sniper. Turn off your lights.” The sniper was an estimated 1 km away, according to the locals walking with us, who said snipers sometimes come within 500 meters.

With night settled in, it was difficult to ascertain the intensity of the damage, but the darkened homes and streets spoke volumes of a neighborhood abandoned by former residents with deep safety concerns.

According to a representative of the Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, around one-third of the congregation’s 1,350 families have fled to other areas of Syria or even gone abroad, primarily seeking security and distance from the mortars and rockets of terrorist factions. Congregation members stopped worshiping in the church chapel two years ago after repeated instances of shelling. They now gather in a small interior corridor where they feel somewhat safer. Nov. 2, 2016. (Photo: Eva Bartlett) 

Aleppo’s religious leaders defy divisiveness 

Inside his church, a new structure built about a year ago to replace the historic church destroyed by terrorists in years prior, Rev. Nseir introduced three Sunni leaders from the city: Dr. Rami Obeid, Dr. Rabih Kukeh, Sheikh Ahmed Ghazeli.

“These Sunni leaders are considered ‘infidels’ by al-Nusra and company,” Nseir said, explaining that they don’t follow the distorted Wahhabi ideology guiding the Western-backed terrorist factions like the Nusra Front and others which had been deemed “moderate rebels” and “opposition forces.”

Before turning the floor over to these religious leaders, Rev. Nseir noted:

“When the church was destroyed, the first person to call me was Mufti Hassoun, who told me, ‘Don’t worry, reverend, we’ll rebuild the church.’”

Dr. Kukeh spoke generally on the multi-denominational culture of Syria:

“The mosaic we are living in Syria is incomparable to any way of living all over the world. Christians and Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites. There is no discrimination based on religion or sect. The propaganda spread throughout the media have no roots here.”

Rev. Ibrahim Nseir, pastor of the Arab Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo, with three top Sunni scholars and leaders, Dr. Rami Obeid, Rabih Kukeh, Sheikh Ahmed Ghazeli, who reject Wahhabism. Dr. Kukeh said of the terrorist factions: “Those who are killing the Sunnis are the same who claim that they are defending the Sunnis.” Nov. 2, 2016. (Photo: Eva Bartlett)

In regards to the terrorists who portray themselves as freedom-fighting jihadists, Dr. Kukeh said:

“Those who are killing the Sunnis are the same who claim that they are defending the Sunnis. The shells that hit us daily are sent by them.”

He named six Sunni sheikhs in Syria, most in Aleppo, who were assassinated by terrorists for not joining them. One of them, Sheikh Abdel Latif al-Shami, was tortured to death in July 2012.

Dr. Kukeh, who said he named his oldest son after the former Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, “because I love that man,” explained that in 2012 he was living in eastern Aleppo when terrorists began to occupy districts there. He was targeted for assassination because he did not agree with the terrorists’ ideologies.

He said he was convicted of charges related to his writing for a local publication, his son’s name, and a lack of anti-government demonstrations emanating from his mosque. Those demonstrations never occurred, he said, because he never encouraged them like other Wahhabi sheikhs did elsewhere.

The conversation drifted from the source of terrorism in Syria, Wahhabism, and its distorted, un-Islamic nature, to the unity I’ve heard Syrians all over speak of. One of the sheikhs, his name lost in a flutter of voices, repeated what’s become a familiar sentiment among Syrian civilians and soldiers:

“Aleppo is one, Syria is one. We reject the division of Aleppo, we reject the division of Syria.”

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MIT Technology Review recently published an article titled, “An AI Ophthalmologist Shows How Machine Learning May Transform Medicine.”

In it, it describes how Google researchers at their DeepMind subsidiary used artificial intelligence (AI) to scan images of human eyes to detect a common form of blindness as well as, or better than trained experts can.

They achieved this by using the same machine learning techniques Google and other tech giants including Facebook use to analyze images that show up on their web platforms. Instead of creating complex programs to handle every conceivable detail in an image, researchers instead teach machines how to learn on their own when exposed to large volumes of pre-tagged examples.

In the MIT Technology Review article, DeepMind’s algorithm studied some 128,000 retinal images that were already classified by ophthalmologists.

The breakthrough is only the latest in a long line of advances in AI. AI machine learning is already being widely used in real-world applications, including sifting through the United Kingdom’s National Health Service’s records, automatically tagging – and flagging – images, videos, and voice across vast social networks, improving efficiency at utility plants by spotting trends and automatically adjusting power consumption, inputs, and outputs, as well as developing protocols for both pharmaceutical production and genetic engineering.

DeepMind’s research into analyzing medical imagery is already set to be integrated into its UK NHS collaboration, according to the Guardian in an article titled, “Google DeepMind pairs with NHS to use machine learning to fight blindness,” which reports:

Google DeepMind has announced its second collaboration with the NHS, working with Moorfields Eye Hospital in east London to build a machine learning system which will eventually be able to recognise sight-threatening conditions from just a digital scan of the eye.

The collaboration is the second between the NHS and DeepMind, which is the artificial intelligence research arm of Google, but Deepmind’s co-founder, Mustafa Suleyman, says this is the first time the company is embarking purely on medical research. An earlier, ongoing, collaboration, with the Royal Free hospital in north London, is focused on direct patient care, using a smartphone app called Streams to monitor kidney function of patients.

In essence, those who control AI technology have access to algorithms that can perform specific tasks better than any trained human can. This confers on those who control this technology an immense advantage and creates disparity those without AI technology have no means of competing against.

Corporations and nations wielding this power, as the number of applications expands, represent an alarming, emerging disparity that may lead to the same sort of abuses and exploitation other forms of technological disparity throughout history have wrought.

Democratizing AI 

Effort into developing AI applications involves big-data. Training machines rather than merely programming them, means exposing them to large amounts of information they can sift through and train themselves with. In order to do this, not only do large amounts of information need to be collected, they need to be tagged or otherwise classified so machines have a baseline to improve against.

A deep learning developer box, via CADnetwork.

The development of these large data sets, as well as developing algorithms to exploit them, requires (at the moment) large numbers of participants outside of corporations like Google and their subsidiaries like DeepMind.

Toward that end, opensource software libraries for machine learning, like Google’s TensorFloware available online for free. GitHub, an online development repository, offers access to a wide range of other available machine learning libraries coders and programmers can use.

The physical hardware currently being used to build deep learning machines include GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) similar to those found in high-end gaming computers. Instructions are online on how to build deep learning machines, including information provided by companies like NVIDIA which make commercially available GPUs.

While it remains to be seen what individual or independent groups of developers can achieve in terms of democratizing this technology, it may be in the best interests of nation-states to begin developing their own AI programs rather than wait for Google, Facebook, and even China’s Baidu to “share” this technology with them.

It may also be in their best interests to examine the merits of promoting the democratization of this technology. Where a lack of resources to acquire high-level researchers at an institutional level exists, democratizing and thus tapping a larger pool of talent to even the odds in the AI race while also raising public literacy regarding this increasingly pivotal technology may be an alternative option.

Research into AI cannot be “banned” and breakthroughs cannot be “un-invented.” With the tools already widely (and in some cases, freely) available to advance AI, attempts to put this civilization-changing technology “back in the box” will only waste time and resources. The only way to counter the harmful application of AI is by possessing an equal or greater capacity to utilize the technology and increase the number of people both educated in how it works, and capable of applying it in reaction to harmful exploitation of it.

Just like information technology, nuclear weapons, or even firearms tilted the global balance of power in favor of those who initially wielded them before more acquired and exploited these technologies, AI too poses a threat unless and until it is more widely adopted and democratized.

With the power to focus on and master any task at superhuman levels, we ignore the challenge to balance this emerging power at our own peril.

LocalOrg seeks to explore local solutions to global problems by empowering people locally with education and technology to not only survive, but to thrive.

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Fake Catholic Groups and the “Catholic Spring” Emails

November 30th, 2016 by Anne Hendershott

Beginning in 2007, orthodox Catholic writers including myself wrote dozens of articles in an attempt to expose the funding and duplicitousness of two fake Catholic groups: the OSF funded Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United. (For example, see here and here and here.) Now, with the release of the leaked emails this week from longtime Democratic Party operative and current Clinton campaign chair, John Podesta, there is confirmation that Podesta personally helped to launch these two progressive groups to infiltrate the Catholic Church in an attempt to provide a liberal revolt against the US bishops. Calling it a “Catholic Spring,” Podesta acknowledged that he “created” these groups to begin a progressive revolution in the Catholic Church.

In a 2012 email to Podesta—with the subject line of “opening for a Catholic Spring?”—a progressive activist named Sanford Newman, President of Voices for Progress, conspired with Podesta to create a “Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church.” Podesta responded to the suggestion by claiming that he had already created Catholic groups ready to act when needed: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this.”

This is not a surprise, but it is vindication for those of us who have been warning about these groups for nearly a decade. In 2008, some of us began to expose the source of the funding for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United, as well as the devious activities they engaged in as they attempted to diminish the authority of those bishops opposing the Affordable Care Act. Some of us were punished by the Obama administration for our journalistic work through punitive political audits by the IRS.  But most of us continued to defend the Church and her leaders against what we knew then was an orchestrated attack by the Obama administration. In a 2009 Wall Street Journal op-ed, I wrote that “when Mr. Obama was running for president, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United tried to neutralize the abortion issue throughout his campaign—suggesting that his proposals on social justice issues like poverty were the real way to reduce abortion rates without restricting abortion rights.”

In the leaked emails to Podesta, Democrat activist Newman suggests that they exploit the US bishops’ opposition to the Affordable care Act’s mandate for contraception and asks whether the Catholic Health Association would side with progressives in their offensive against the Church.  We know now that Sr. Keehan, as leader of the Catholic Health Association, did indeed side against the USCCB in helping to pass Obama’s health care act—an act replete with funding for abortion and mandates for contraception.

Once President Obama was elected, he appointed Alexia Kelley, formerly the founding Director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, to head his Obama’s Center for Faith Based and Community Initiatives.  Her office became heavily involved in helping to pass the Affordable Care Act—despite protestations from the USCCB.  Kelley brought a decade (1993-2002) of experience of working on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development for the Bishops Conference—during which time she helped funnel more than seven million dollars to ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).  Under criminal investigation in several states,

ACORN’s voter registration drives helped to elect President Obama.  Chris Korzen, then the leader of Catholics United—the sister organization of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good—and a leader of the Catholic Voting Project in 2004 (another Democrat funded organization), organized support for pro-choice Kathleen Sebelius’s appointment as secretary of Health and Human Services by gathering signatures for an online petition titled “Catholic for Sebelius.”  Enlisting the help of progressive Catholic leaders like Sr. Carol Keehan, and Catholic Sen. Robert Casey (D) to persuade people that the Affordable Care Act was “pro-life legislation,” these organizations attempted to marginalize anyone who presented an alternative narrative.

While Sr. Keehan claimed that President Obama’s health care reform “draws on Catholic social teachings,” and was an “ethical necessity, a building block for the common good of the nation,” the bishops realized that the health care act had contraception mandates that included abortifacients and could not be allowed. For all of her lobbing efforts, Sr. Keehan was awarded one of the signing pens from President Obama when he signed the Affordable Care legislation.  In June 2015, President Obama was asked to give the keynote address at the Catholic Health Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. “It has been my privilege,” said Sr. Keehan in introducing Obama, “to work with the president and his team over the past seven years”.

Korzen, as Director of Catholics United, claimed that his organization was simply a non-partisan Catholic social justice organization interested in “following Church teachings”. Yet his statements and activities have always contradicted his assertions. The Catholics United website revealed that the organization began its advocacy work in the spring of 2004 when “a group of Catholic activists and friends formed the Catholic Voting Project to promote the U.S. Catholic bishops’ 2003 document Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility.” Claiming that the mission of the Catholic Voting Project was to encourage a public dialogue about faith and politics, the Voting Project was criticized early on by orthodox Catholics such as Catholic Answers founder Karl Keating as a “front” for electing Senator John Kerry as President.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Kelley teamed with Democratic Party operatives James Salt, Korzen, and other leaders of Catholics United to help neutralize the abortion issue by casting it in pro-Democratic Party terms, claiming that reducing poverty was the better way to reduce abortion.  Kelley was joined at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good by other colleagues from the USCCB, including John Gehring, Tom Chabolla and Francis Xavier Doyle.  Gehring parlayed his position as assistant media director at the USCCB to a communications position at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Today, Gehring works as a senior writer and Catholic outreach coordinator at Jim Wallis’ Soros-supported Faith in Public Life where he continues his attacks on the Catholic bishops who disagree with his progressive politics. Gehring, who wrote a 2015 book about Pope Francis’ “radical” challenge to the “American Catholic Church”, was assisted in his work to helping to elect progressive politicians at the offices of Faith in Public Life by Nick Sementelli, another former employee of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

Like Alexia Kelley, Tom Chabolla worked at the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development before he went to work as the assistant to the president of the SEIU, the Service Employees International Union.  Chabolla served as one of several union leaders on the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good Advisory Board.  The highest level “graduate” of the USCCB is Francis X. Doyle who was the associate general secretary of the USCCB before he became the treasurer-secretary of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.  In this capacity, Doyle played an important role in helping to pass the Affordable Care Act.  Publicly identifying himself as a former associate general secretary of the USCCB, Doyle always implied that he speaks for Catholics.

During the time Korzen led Catholics United as a lobbying organization (501c4), he used bullying tactics against faithful Catholic writers who attempted to expose his questionable activities. Korzen was instrumental in triggering the political audit of William Donohue, the leader of the Catholic League. Donohue found out about Korzen’s role in triggering the audit from a CNN reporter. It is likely that Korzen also played an important role in triggering my IRS audit also—although the Obama administration has refused to respond fully to three Freedom of Information Act  requests from Atty. Charles LiMandri on my behalf.

Now, with the release of the Podesta emails, there is confirmation that the claims of the two organizations were lies from the start. The two groups were never created to help support the bishops.  On the contrary, they were created from with the intention of provoking a revolt against the bishops who are, as Sanford Newman snidely wrote, still “stuck in the Middle Ages.” While Korzen seems to have disappeared from politics, Alexia Kelley is now ensconced as the leader of yet another major Catholic philanthropy organization.  And Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good continues its commitment to electing Democrats primarily through its newest initiative Millennial—a journal founded and funded through Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good targeted to young Catholics.  Like its parent organization, Millennial continues the misleading claims that they “aim to move beyond partisan and ideological divisions, bringing together all those who support the global common good and the worth and dignity of the human person.”  While they have attempted to remove all traces of their connection with Podesta’s Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good on their website, their donor page is still hosted on the Catholics in Alliance website.

Newman, in his February 11, 2012 e-mail to John Podesta, wrote:

This whole controversy with the bishops opposing contraceptive coverage even though 98% of Catholic women (and their conjugal partners) have used contraception has me thinking . . . There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church. Is contraceptive coverage an issue around which that could happen. The Bishops will undoubtedly continue the fight.

Yes, there needs to be a “Catholic spring”, but not the sort envisioned by the clueless Newman (who admitted his “total lack of understanding of the Catholic church”), and Church leaders need to continue the fight, even if some of them lack a stomach for the so-called “culture wars”. It will require, among other things, an attentiveness to how underhanded, misleading, cynical, and even bigoted are the constant political machinations.

Thankfully, some do understand. In an essay posted earlier today on the First Thingssite, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput recounts being approached in 2008, prior to the Obama-McCain presidential election, by two Catholics United operatives:

They voiced great concern at the manipulative skill of Catholic agents for the Republican Party. And they hoped my brother bishops and I would resist identifying the Church with single-issue and partisan (read: abortion) politics.

It was an interesting experience. Both men were obvious flacks for the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party—creatures of a political machine, not men of the Church; less concerned with Catholic teaching than with its influence. And presumably (for them) bishops were dumb enough to be used as tools, or at least prevented from helping the other side. Yet these two young men not only equaled but surpassed their Republican cousins in the talents of servile partisan hustling. Thanks to their work, and activists like them, American Catholics helped to elect an administration that has been the most stubbornly unfriendly to religious believers, institutions, concerns and liberty in generations.

As Archbishop Chaput notes, “I never saw either young man again. The cultural damage done by the current White House has—apparently—made courting America’s bishops unnecessary.” Perhaps. But what is necessary is a clear vision of the serious challenges facing Catholics now and far into the future from those who work to not only influence the Church but to manipulate and mislead her under the guise of “Catholic” labels.

Anne Hendershott is professor of sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Church (Encounter Books).
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Prior to the U.S. election, Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and the Obama White House, were saying that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was aiming to make Americans distrust the results of the November election. Of course, at that time, Clinton was considered almost certain to win.

Here was a typical piece of their campaign-propaganda at that time — the time when the expectation was that if there would be any challenge to the election-results, it would be coming from Trump, not from Clinton:

However, after Clinton turned out to be the loser in the election’s initial results, the face on that magazine-cover ought to be Jill Stein’s, instead of Vladimir Putin’s, because Stein is actually the person who turns out to be the prime mover in the attempt to discredit the initial outcome of November’s election.

The Clinton campaign is now joining Jill Stein’s effort to switch the results in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — that barely went tor Trump in the vote-count (Stein is ignoring to have vote-recounts in the states that Hillary had barely won: New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Nevada; so, this is hardly a non-partisan operation).

Furthermore, an article by Steve Rosenfeld at the anti-Russian website alternet headlined on November 26th, «Green Recount Effort Poised to Explore Whether Russia Hacked the Vote for Trump: The stakes and lines of inquiry became clearer as the Clinton campaign joined the effort». This fascinating report from a different anti-Russian propaganda site, indicates that «the first recount petition filed by the Greens, in Wisconsin, primarily focused on Russian hacking, not on the more easily understood line of inquiry of different voting technologies reporting different margins of victory for Trump despite their locations».

Rosenfeld supported that line of attack against a Trump win, citing as evidence for it an article at the anti-Russian website Medium, by an anti-Russian computer scientist at the University of Michigan, who argued that Russia possessed both the capacity and the will to throw the election to Trump. That professor cited as his sources other anti-Russian entities, such as the Obama Administration, and the rabidly anti-Russian Ukrainian regime that Obama had installed in a bloody coup (fronted by ‘democracy protesters’in Kiev during February 2014 (and which even a CIA-friendly American intelligence-expert called «the most blatant coup in history»). The Michigan anti-Russian professor said:

«Federal agencies publicly asserted that senior officials in the Russian government commissioned these attacks. Russia has sophisticated cyber-offensive capabilities, and has shown a willingness to use them to hack elections. In 2014, during the presidential election in Ukraine, attackers linked to Russia sabotaged the country’s vote-counting infrastructure and, according to published reports, Ukrainian officials succeeded only at the last minute in defusing vote-stealing malware that was primed to cause the wrong winner to be announced».

(Where that anti-Russian professor linked «election in Ukraine,» the source linked-to was the anti-Russian Christian Science Monitor, headlining in June 2014, «Ukraine election narrowly avoided ‘wanton destruction’ from hackers (+video): A brazen three-pronged cyber-attack against last month’s Ukrainian presidential elections has set the world on notice – and bears Russian fingerprints, some say». The «Russian fingerprints» that were actually identified in that article, however, were not at all the Russian government, but «pro-Russia hackers, [who] infiltrated Ukraine’s central election computers and deleted key files, rendering the vote-tallying system inoperable», and who promptly posted online «spilling e-mails and other documents onto the web», which hardly seems like the sort of surreptitious election-manipulation operation that the professor, and Clinton, and Stein, are allegedly trying to document to have occurred in the Trump-Clinton electoral contest.)

So, all of that professor’s sources were anti-Russian and accepted U.S.-government propaganda without question — and furthermore cited sources as being evidence for hypotheses that they didn’t actually support.

Rosenfeld’s article noted that that professor’s article had prompted «the Clinton campaign’s top lawyer, Marc Elias» to seek a recount in the three states that in the initial counts had barely tipped to Trump: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. And, coincidentally Jill Stein had already been seeking funding to do precisely that; so, the Clinton campaign was now conveniently jumping aboard her bus (if it wasn’t actually Clinton’s bus from the very start — and funded by Clinton’s billionaires).

Both CNN and the ‘alternative news’ site alternet, and other ’news’ sites, quoted the Clinton campaign’s lawyer, Elias, who wrote at Medium, that, «just yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the Russian government was behind much of the ‘fake news’ propaganda that circulated online in the closing weeks of the election». (Was he referring to the fake news at sites, and print-publications, such as TIME? No.) On November 27th, I headlined «The Lying Washington Post Gets Exposed, And All Major U.S. ‘News’ Media Refuse To Report It», and documented, both from my own research and from the research by two reporters at The Intercept, that the Washington Post ‘news’ story cited there by the Clinton lawyer was itself fake ‘news’, an outright lie. Instead of America’s ‘news’ media publicizing the exposing of the hoax by the Washington Post, which had been based upon a hoax started by unnamed persons, America’s ’news’ media, and the Clinton campaign’s lawyer, were still citing that hoax, by ‘PropOrNot’ and spread virally now by the WP and other U.S.-government fronts, or ‘news’ media, as being their authority.

On November 28th, TIME headlined «What You Need to Know About the Wisconsin Recount», and a sub-headed section there was:

«What is Clinton’s role?

Peripheral. The effort is being led by Stein, who is filing petitions and raising the money necessary to secure the recount in each state. Though Clinton officials have weighed in on some of Trump’s responses, insight into the Clinton camp’s thoughts on the recount was provided by Elias via Medium».

Subscriptions to the mainstream ‘news’ media have been soaring ever since these medias’ predictions regarding who would almost certainly win the Trump-Clinton electoral contest became disconfirmed by subsequent events. This is like what had happened after those media had told us in 2002 and 2003 that Saddam Hussein must be overthrown because of his weapons of mass destruction. At such times as this, most people seek the assurance of obtaining their information only from ‘the top quality news sources’. And, of course, all of those ‘news’ sources validate all of the other ones; so, those are the ones which benefit the most from the public’s confusions and uncertainties. This is the way ‘democracy’ functions. It’s built on trust. (Trust in ‘authority’, of course.)

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martin-luther-king-jr

“Orders to Kill” Dr. Martin Luther King: The Government that Honors MLK with a National Holiday Killed Him

By Edward Curtin, November 28 2016

Very few Americans are aware of the truth behind the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Few books have been written about it, unlike other significant assassinations, especially JFK’s. For almost fifty years there has been a media blackout supported by government deception to hide the truth. And few people, in a massive act of self-deception, have chosen to question the absurd official explanation, choosing, rather, to embrace a mythic fabrication intended to sugarcoat the bitter fruit that has resulted from the murder of the one man capable of leading a mass movement for revolutionary change in the United States.  Today we are eating the fruit of our denial.

India-economy_0

What Has Neoliberal Capitalism Ever Done for India? The Demonetization Heist

By Colin Todhunter, November 29 2016

When India ushered in neoliberal economic reforms during the early 1990s, the promise was job creation, inclusive growth and prosperity for all. But, some 25 years later, what we have seen is almost 400,000 farmers committing suicide, one of the greatest levels of inequality out of all ‘emerging’ economies, a trend towards jobless ‘growth’, an accelerating and massive illegal outflow of wealth by the rich, and, as if that were not enough, now we have the sequestration of ordinary people’s money under the euphemism ‘demonetization’.

Nigel-Farage

UK Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage, Bombast and the US-British Relationship

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark, November 29 2016

Never accuse the former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) of being shy. In recent days, Nigel Farage has been reiterating to followers and press outlets that his party was instrumental in electing Donald Trump as US president. Very cocksure is old Farage, and it was confidence that did get a boost from a personal endorsement from Donald Trump that he be appointed Britain’s ambassador to the United States.

thailand-flagThe West’s War on Thailand’s Next King

By Tony Cartalucci, November 29 2016

The first fatal mistake Western observers make when attempting to describe Thailand’s monarchy is comparing it to European, or worse yet, Arabian institutions. It is neither. With the passing of the universally revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the upcoming coronation of his successor, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Western observers are indulging deeply in this mistake once again – many doing so intentionally for politically-motivated reasons.

Netanyahu

The Fantasy at the Centre of Israel’s “Muezzin Bill”. Legislation to “Stop the Dawn Call to Prayer”

By Jonathan Cook, November 29 2016

Israeli legislation ostensibly intended to tackle noise pollution from Muslim houses of worship has, paradoxically, served chiefly to provoke a cacophony of indignation across much of the Middle East.

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US-backed “Rebels” Face Defeat in Aleppo

November 29th, 2016 by Bill Van Auken

In what is being described as the worst defeat for US-backed forces since the outset of the war for regime-change in Syria nearly six years ago, government troops, backed by forces from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and Iraqi Shia militias, have retaken over 40 percent of eastern Aleppo, the last urban stronghold of the so-called “rebels.”

According to a report from Iran, which, together with Russia, is a principal backer of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian army units have conquered 20 square kilometers out of the total of 45 square kilometers making up eastern Aleppo.

The government advance has been extremely rapid, suggesting a rout of the US-backed militias. The ground offensive follows two weeks of intense Syrian air strikes, launched after a month-long cessation of bombing by both Syrian and Russian warplanes.

Syrian government media reported that the army had captured the Sakhour area and was clearing it of mines. Government control of this part of the city would effectively split the area held by the “rebels” in two.

The government advance has led to tens of thousands of civilians fleeing the areas controlled by the Islamist militias for safety in both government-controlled western Aleppo and the Sheik Maqsoud district held by the Kurdish YPG militia.

The YPG has joined in the offensive against eastern Aleppo, further complicating the US intervention in Syria. While Washington has backed the Islamist militias fighting the Assad government, it has also sought to use the Kurdish YPG as its principal proxy force in the US military campaign against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in Syria.

Turkey, Washington’s NATO ally in the region, has also sent troops into Syria, ostensibly to combat ISIS, but directed principally at preventing the Syrian Kurdish forces from consolidating control over territory near the Turkish border. As a result, on multiple fronts Washington is backing forces that are fighting against each other.

The civilians fleeing eastern Aleppo told stories of the horrors of the Russian-Syrian government bombing campaign as well as the repression and terror carried out by the Islamists controlling the neighborhoods in the east. It has been widely reported that the US-backed militias previously shot civilians trying to leave.

Before the war began in 2011, Aleppo was Syria’s second-largest city as well as its commercial capital.

Western Aleppo, where approximately 1.5 million people live–as opposed to less than 200,000 in the “rebel”-held eastern part of the city–is under the control of the Syrian government. It has come under indiscriminate mortar fire from the US-backed rebels aimed against the civilian population.

Both the Russian media and the Washington Post reported Monday that US Secretary of State John Kerry has mounted a new campaign aimed at brokering a ceasefire in Aleppo. While couched in humanitarian rhetoric, the principal aim of these efforts is to prevent the complete collapse of the US-backed militias and the consolidation of the Assad government’s control over all of Syria’s major population centers.

The media and Obama administration officials have violently denounced the Syrian government and its ally Russia for the siege of eastern Aleppo. The situation today, however, is the reverse of what prevailed a year ago when the so-called rebels were laying siege to western Aleppo, which faced an imminent humanitarian catastrophe. At that time, there were no humanitarian concerns expressed by Washington.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby on Monday denied that Kerry was engaged in “frantic or frenetic, last-ditch efforts” to salvage the US-backed regime-change operation before the fall of Aleppo and the inauguration of Donald Trump, who has expressed disagreements with current US policy.

Kirby acknowledged that the continuing sticking point in attempts to reach a new agreement with Moscow was Washington’s failure to keep its pledge to separate supposedly “moderate rebels” from the fighters of the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda.

“That is a difficult thing,” said the State Department spokesman. “We’ve talked about that for many months, this marbleization, if you will, of–the marbling of opposition groups with al-Nusra.”

The “difficulty” is that the only significant armed opposition forces in the regime-change operation orchestrated by Washington and its allies consist of al-Nusra and ISIS, both offshoots of Al Qaeda, which for the decade-and-a-half of the “war on terror” has been portrayed as the foremost threat to the security of people of the US and the world.

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In major actions reported only briefly by the establishment press, President Obama has given vast new scope to the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), authorizing it to carry out assassinations across the globe.

The units of JSOC have long been employed by the chiefs of the six major regional military commands, such as Centcom, which covers the Middle East and Central Asia, to conduct counter-terrorism operations. One such unit, Seal Team Six, carried out the assassination of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

Obama has approved a proposal to give JSOC independent authority to operate outside the regional commands, essentially as a globalized assassination force. JSOC units will bypass the regional commanders and report directly to Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in the Pentagon.

According to the Washington Post, “The missions could occur well beyond the battlefields of places like Iraq, Syria and Libya, where Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has carried out clandestine operations in the past. When finalized, it will elevate JSOC from being a highly-valued strike tool used by regional military commands to leading a new multi-agency intelligence and action force.”

The mandate of the new formation, to be called the “Counter-External Operations Task Force,” or Ex-Ops in Pentagon jargon, will embrace the entire planet. This means US military death squads could be sent to virtually any location, from European cities to South American jungles, including the United States itself.

According to the Post, a reorganization making counter-terrorism an independent, global command has been discussed in the Pentagon for 15 years, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but it was always rejected on the grounds that it would cause friction with the regional commanders and create duplication in command structures.

The newspaper did not address the question of why now, a decade-and-a-half later, the Obama administration has decided to press forward with the new global counter-terrorism initiative. The decision is likely, at least in part, a response to the debacle of the US “war on terror” from the standpoint of the global aims of American imperialism.

The US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria and repeated drone strikes in other countries, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, have inflicted catastrophic levels of death and destruction, but they have not achieved the hoped-for hegemonic control of the region and its vast energy resources. Obama’s decision represents a determination to escalate US military violence in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.

Another likely consideration is the possibility that the ongoing military offensives against Islamic State territories in Syria and Iraq, and particularly the siege of Mosul, could lead to thousands of ISIS militants turning to terrorist attacks outside the Middle East.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter traveled to Paris last month with SOCOM Commander Raymond Thomas for talks with security officials from several European countries. A major topic was the impact on Europe of a sudden weakening in the military position of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Carter told his European counterparts that JSOC “has been put in the lead” of countering ISIS external operations, the first mention of the impending Pentagon reorganization.

The Post report sought to present the Obama-approved reorganization as an effort to set limits on the operations of special forces under the incoming Trump administration, including “approval by several agencies before a drone strike and ‘near certainty’ that no civilians will be killed guidelines.” But these restrictions are for cosmetic purposes only and have not stopped the mass slaughter of civilians by drone missile warfare.

Moreover, Trump is not bound in any way by executive orders issued by Obama. The fascistic president-elect has already made his intentions clear, as far as US Special Forces operations are concerned. He has vowed to order the killing of the wives and children of suspected ISIS fighters, a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

The latest White House orders serve to facilitate these homicidal intentions. Less than a month ago, Obama was campaigning against the election of Trump, denouncing him as unfit to be commander-in-chief and as a menace to the world. Now, as Foreign Policy magazine reported, Obama is “handing the incoming Trump team tools to wage war that no president has held before.”

In one particular theater of US counter-terrorism operations, Somalia, Obama has taken additional action to escalate the carnage by declaring the Islamist group al-Shabab to be part of the armed conflict authorized by the US Congress in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.

The legal maneuver, reported Monday by the New York Times, demonstrates the infinitely expandable scope of the US-declared “war on terror.” The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress on September 14, 2001, approved military action against Al Qaeda and associated forces, including the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The 2001 AUMF has been interpreted by the Bush and Obama administrations as a blanket authorization for military action wherever the president claims to find a connection to Al Qaeda, no matter how tenuous. Al-Shabab was not founded until 2007, six years after the 9/11 attacks, in response to the US-backed invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian troops. It has never conducted operations outside of East Africa.

The Times noted that the Somalia decision was one of a series of Obama actions expanding the military’s authority, including broadening the scope of air strikes in Afghanistan and approving air strikes against Sirte, the Libyan city held by supporters of ISIS. More than 400 air strikes followed, pounding into rubble a city already devastated by five years of civil war following the 2011 US-NATO bombing campaign.

The preparations to reinforce the pseudo-legal basis of the war in Somalia no doubt began well before the election, when Obama expected to hand off authority to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But it has continued uninterrupted after Trump’s victory, and as the Times reported, it is “a move that will strengthen President-elect Donald J. Trump’s authority to combat thousands of Islamist fighters in the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.”

Earlier this month, the British-based Guardian reported that “Barack Obama will not tighten the rules governing US drone strikes ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration.” An Amnesty International USA official, Naureen Shah, told the newspaper, “Obama has normalized the idea that presidents get to have secret large-scale killing programs at their disposal.”

These events shed a new and sinister light over the reports of frequent closed-door discussions between Obama and Trump during the three weeks since the November 8 election. “They’ve been talking regularly on any number of issues,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program Sunday.

Obama was at pains, in his first post-election statement, to dismiss the bitter vituperation of the election campaign, declaring that the electoral struggle between the Democrats and Republicans was merely “an intramural scrimmage.” This is profoundly true: both parties represent the same class, the American financial aristocracy, and its global interests, defended in the final analysis by death and destruction inflicted by the American military machine.

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While on the campaign trail, President-Elect Donald J. Trump made a range of statements suggesting a shift away from a policy of interventionism, combined with a focus on safeguarding US borders and jobs at the expense of the dominant ideology of globalism. Can and will he deliver on these promises? There are many reasons to believe he will genuinely push US foreign policy in this direction, but at the same time he will face obstacles on his path.

One of the factors clearly helping him is the increasingly indisputable fact that globalism as an ideology has been discredited, except, ironically, among the liberal “creative classes” and among the financial elites. The rest of the society and of the elite is increasingly skeptical of such policies if not downright opposed to them, which means they are willing to experiment with economic nationalism and even isolationism.

Trump also benefits from the fact that nearly all neo-conservatives have endorsed the Hillary candidacy, apparently convinced her victory was all but inevitable. Being on the losing side, they have eliminated themselves from consideration for positions within the Trump Administration, and the early personnel choices reflect it. The early pick of the former CIA Director James Woolsey is indicative of the gradual shift toward the Fortress America model. While Woolsey did support the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he notably refrained from calling for a “no-fly zone” over Syria and he is also in favor of expanding US energy production in order to reduce the dependence on Middle Eastern oil, which is a prerequisite for the US political and military disengagement from the region.

Another prominent figure in the Trump camp is General Michael Flynn who, like Woolsey, comes from the intelligence community, prioritizes the Islamist threat, and, like Woolsey, is a former Democrat who can’t find a home in the Democratic Party that has been taken over by the neo-conservatives. Tellingly, Flynn attended a high-profile dinner in Moscow in 2015, and delivered a speech at the 2016 GOP convention from which the anti-Russian tone of the Democratic campaign were missing. One also must not forget that the most important official in the Trump Administration will be Vice President Mike Pence whose primary focus is domestic US politics, with an eye on creating jobs and reducing the size of the government.

That is not to say any of them are in principle opposed to “global empire,” but with one caveat:  the neocons seem committed no matter what the cost and risk, while Trump’s people have in the past supported various trade agreements, invasions, and international confrontations, including Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, as long as the cost was low.  Whereas the neocons can be fairly described as psychologically disturbed, Trump’s conservatives are cost-and-benefit pragmatists. A decade ago, it did seem the “global empire” had no adverse consequences.

Not anymore. Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria have only imposed costs on the US, with no benefits in sight. Millions of migrants and refugees, dislodged by a combination of free trade policies and color revolutions, are a political problem for both EU and Europe. Last but not least, Russia’s political and military responses to NATO aggression against Ukraine and Syria, and its ability to withstand, and even benefit from, Western economic pressure, makes the prospect of pursuing “global empire” policies increasingly costly and risky, while the demonstrated effectiveness of Russian policies make Russia appear as an attractive potential ally. Trump’s election was hopefully the event necessary to tip the scales toward the “Fortress America” strategy relying on a combination of strengthening US borders, making the country less dependent on international trade and resources, and reducing the cost of international engagements.

At the same time the “global empire” camp will not go away without a fight, even though the cards it is holding are very weak indeed. Not only have they associated themselves with a losing candidate, their policies’ lack of success means they have no credible blueprint to offer. Attempts to discredit Trump using sex scandals or alleged links to the Kremlin have had no effect and may in fact have backfired. The weak “color revolution”-like demonstrations in various US cities are having no effect. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Trump-Pence team manages to dissuade the mainstream media from continuing the negative coverage of the president-elect in order to force him to stray from his chosen path. One can also envision pressure on Trump being exerted through pressuring the members of his family using scandals, in order to “teach” him that defying the US “deep state” will be costly. Similar techniques have been used about several international leaders, with Ukraine’s President Yanukovych being effectively neutralized during the Maidan by the massed propaganda barrage. Trump does benefit, however, from his core constituencies simply not believing US mainstream media.

At a minimum, the “global elites” will attempt to find as much compromising information concerning Trump, his family, and close associates as possible, in order to make him an “offer he can’t refuse” backed up by a sizable financial “consolation prize”. If Trump refuses to succumb to direct and indirect pressure and attempts to pursue even part of what he promised during the campaign, Trump’s opponents will embark on more drastic measures, including a Maidan-like permanent demonstration aimed at tarnishing Trump’s reputation or even an assassination attempt. While the former is highly likely, the latter is somewhat less plausible because it would result in elevate Trump to martyrdom and also set a precedent for future assassinations, which is something the US elite fears greatly.  However, Trump will have to deal with tremendous and constant psychological pressure that will be exerted on him through his close associates, family, and of course the media, in order to disorient him and throw him off course.

Moreover, Trump’s political foes will pursue an international approach, using NATO and EU as means of exerting pressure on the new administration, through military provocations if need be. US, being a relatively sparsely, resource-rich country not unlike Russia, can pursue a “Fortress America” strategy. The EU would find it much more difficult to do so without embracing authoritarian governance, as it requires a “Lebensraum”-like sphere of influence that will provide natural resources which the continent lacks. But this Europe has no Grande Armee or Wehrmacht– it has to rely on US military power and subversion. Hence the  hysterical European reaction to the US election, for the adoption of a “Fortress America” strategy by the US renders EU’s own strategy of expansion obsolete.

Deciding what to do about the US relationship to Europe that has become a major net drain on US resources will therefore be a major challenge for the Trump Administration. If it is pulled down the same path as its predecessor, it will ultimately be because of its inability to redefine its relations with an increasingly burdensome and costly set of allies on the other side of the Atlantic, and for this reason the outcome of the upcoming elections in Germany and France is of critical importance.

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