Selling ‘Regime Change’ Wars to the Masses

Propaganda is now such a pervasive part of Western governance that any foreign leader who resists the prevailing power structure can be turned into a demon and made a target of a “regime change” war, explains John Pilger.

By John Pilger

American journalist Edward Bernays is often described as the man who invented modern propaganda. The nephew of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psychoanalysis, it was Bernays who coined the term “public relations” as a euphemism for spin and its deceptions.

In 1929, as a publicist for the cigarette industry, Bernays persuaded feminists to promote cigarettes for women by smoking in the New York Easter Parade – behavior then considered outlandish. One feminist, Ruth Booth, declared, “Women! Light another torch of freedom! Fight another sex taboo!”

Edward Bernays, a pioneer in the modern use of propaganda.

Edward Bernays, a pioneer in the modern use of propaganda.

Bernays’s influence extended far beyond advertising. His greatest success was his role in convincing the American public to join the slaughter of the First World War. The secret, he said, was “engineering the consent” of people in order to “control and regiment [them] according to our will without their knowing about it.”

He described this as “the true ruling power in our society” and called it an “invisible government.”

Today, the invisible government has never been more powerful and less understood. In my career as a journalist and filmmaker, I have never known propaganda to insinuate our lives and as it does now and to go unchallenged.

Tale of Two Cities

Imagine two cities. Both are under siege by the forces of the government of that country. Both cities are occupied by fanatics, who commit terrible atrocities, such as beheading people. But there is a vital difference. In one siege, the government soldiers are described as liberators by Western reporters embedded with them, who enthusiastically report their battles and air strikes. There are front-page pictures of these heroic soldiers giving a V-sign for victory. There is scant mention of civilian casualties.

Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN, addresses the Security Council meeting on Syria, Sept. 25, 2016 (UN Photo)

Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN, addresses the Security Council meeting on Syria, Sept. 25, 2016 (UN Photo)

In the second city – in another country nearby – almost exactly the same is happening. Government forces are laying siege to a city controlled by the same breed of fanatics.

The difference is that these fanatics are supported, supplied and armed by “us” – by the United States and Britain. They even have a media center that is funded by Britain and America.

Another difference is that the government soldiers laying siege to this city are the “bad guys,” condemned for assaulting and bombing the city – which is exactly what the good soldiers do in the first city.

Confusing? Not really. Such is the basic double standard that is the essence of propaganda. I am referring, of course, to the current siege of the city of Mosul by the government forces of Iraq, who are backed by the United States and Britain, and to the siege of Aleppo by the government forces of Syria, backed by Russia. One is good; the other is bad.

Behind the Fanatics

What is seldom reported is that both cities would not be occupied by fanatics and ravaged by war if Britain and the United States had not invaded Iraq in 2003. That criminal enterprise was launched on lies strikingly similar to the propaganda that now distorts our understanding of the civil war in Syria.

U.S.-backed Syrian "moderate" rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]

U.S.-backed Syrian “moderate” rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]

Without this drumbeat of propaganda dressed up as news, the monstrous ISIS and Al Qaeda and the Nusra Front and the rest of the jihadist gang might not exist, and the people of Syria might not be fighting for their lives today.

Some may remember in 2003 a succession of BBC reporters turning to the camera and telling us that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was “vindicated” for what turned out to be the crime of the century, the invasion of Iraq. The U.S. television networks produced the same validation for George W. Bush. Fox News brought on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to effuse over then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s fabrications.

The same year, soon after the invasion, I filmed an interview in Washington with Charles Lewis, the renowned American investigative journalist. I asked him, “What would have happened if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged what turned out to be crude propaganda?”

He replied that if journalists had done their job, “there is a very, very good chance we would not have gone to war in Iraq.”

It was a shocking statement, and one supported by other famous journalists to whom I put the same question — Dan Rather of CBS, David Rose of the Observer, and journalists and producers in the BBC, who wished to remain anonymous.

In other words, had journalists done their job, had they challenged and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today, and there would be no ISIS and no siege of Aleppo or Mosul.

There would have been no atrocity on the London Underground on July 7, 2005. There would have been no flight of millions of refugees; there would be no miserable camps.

When the terrorist atrocity happened in Paris last November, President Francoise Hollande immediately sent planes to bomb Syria – and more terrorism followed, predictably, the product of Hollande’s bombast about France being “at war” and “showing no mercy.” That state violence and jihadist violence feed off each other is the truth that no national leader has the courage to speak.

“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”

Punishing Independence

The attack on Iraq, the attack on Libya, the attack on Syria happened because the leader in each of these countries was not a puppet of the West. The human rights record of a Saddam or a Gaddafi was irrelevant. They did not obey orders and surrender control of their country.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

The same fate awaited Slobodan Milosevic once he had refused to sign an “agreement” that demanded the occupation of Serbia and its conversion to a market economy. His people were bombed, and he was prosecuted in The Hague. Independence of this kind is intolerable.

As WikLeaks has revealed, it was only when the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in 2009 rejected an oil pipeline, running through his country from Qatar to Europe, that he was attacked. From that moment, the CIA planned to destroy the government of Syria with jihadist fanatics – the same fanatics currently holding the people of Mosul and eastern Aleppo hostage.

Why is this not news? The former British Foreign Office official Carne Ross, who was responsible for operating sanctions against Iraq, told me: “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitized intelligence, or we would freeze them out. That is how it worked.”

The West’s medieval client, Saudi Arabia – to which the U.S. and Britain sell billions of dollars’ worth of arms – is at present destroying Yemen, a country so poor that in the best of times, half the children are malnourished.

Look on YouTube and you will see the kind of massive bombs – “our” bombs – that the Saudis use against dirt-poor villages, and against weddings, and funerals. The explosions look like small atomic bombs. The bomb aimers in Saudi Arabia work side-by-side with British officers. This fact is not on the evening news.

Refined Messengers

Propaganda is most effective when our consent is engineered by those with a fine education – Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia – and with careers on the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post.

New York Times building in New York City. (Photo from Wikipedia)

New York Times building in New York City. (Photo from Wikipedia)

These organizations are known as the “liberal media.” They present themselves as enlightened, progressive tribunes of the moral zeitgeist. They are anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-LGBT. And they love war. While they speak up for feminism, they support rapacious wars that deny the rights of countless women, including the right to life.

In 2011, Libya, then a modern state, was destroyed on the pretext that Muammar Gaddafi was about to commit genocide on his own people. That was the incessant news; and there was no evidence. It was a lie.

In fact, Britain, Europe and the United States wanted what they like to call “regime change” in Libya, the biggest oil producer in Africa. Gaddafi’s influence in the continent and, above all, his independence were intolerable.

So Gaddafi was murdered with a knife in his rear by fanatics, backed by America, Britain and France. Hillary Clinton cheered his gruesome death for the camera, declaring, “We came, we saw, he died!”

The destruction of Libya was a media triumph. As the war drums were beaten, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian: “Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.”

Intervention – what a polite, benign, Guardian word, whose real meaning, for Libya, was death and destruction.

According to its own records, NATO launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads. Look at the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. The Unicef report on the children killed says, “most [of them] under the age of ten.”

As a direct consequence, Sirte became a capital of ISIS.

Ukraine is another media triumph. Respectable liberal newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, and mainstream broadcasters such as the BBC, NBC, CBS, CNN have played a critical role in conditioning their viewers to accept a new and

dangerous Cold War. All have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia when, in fact, the coup in Ukraine in 2014 was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and NATO.

Inversion of Reality

This inversion of reality is so pervasive that Washington’s military intimidation of Russia is not news; it is suppressed behind a smear-and-scare campaign of the kind I grew up with during the first Cold War. Once again, the Russkies are coming to get us, led by another Stalin, whom The Economist depicts as the devil.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria "Toria" Nuland, addresses Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting room at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, at the outset of a bilateral meeting on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria “Toria” Nuland, addresses Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting room at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]

The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The fascists who engineered the coup in Kiev are the same breed that backed the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Of all the scares about the rise of fascist anti-Semitism in Europe, no leader ever mentions the fascists in Ukraine – except Vladimir Putin, but he does not count.

Many in the Western media have worked hard to present the ethnic Russian-speaking population of Ukraine as outsiders in their own country, as agents of Moscow, almost never as Ukrainians seeking a federation within Ukraine and as Ukrainian citizens resisting a foreign-orchestrated coup against their elected government.

There is almost the joie d’esprit of a class reunion of warmongers. The drum-beaters of the Washington Post inciting war with Russia are the very same editorial writers who published the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

A Freak Show 

To most of us, the American presidential campaign is a media freak show, in which Donald Trump is the arch villain. But Trump is loathed by those with power in the United States for reasons that have little to do with his obnoxious behavior and opinions.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

To the invisible government in Washington, the unpredictable Trump is an obstacle to America’s design for the Twenty-first Century. This is to maintain the dominance of the United States and to subjugate Russia, and, if possible, China.

To the militarists in Washington, the real problem with Trump is that, in his lucid moments, he seems not to want a war with Russia; he wants to talk with the Russian president, not fight him; he says he wants to talk with the president of China.

In the first debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump promised not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict. He said, “I would certainly not do first strike. Once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.” That was not news.

Did he really mean it? Who knows? He often contradicts himself. But what is clear is that Trump is considered a serious threat to the status quo maintained by the vast national security machine that runs the United States, regardless of who is in the White House.

The CIA wants him beaten. The Pentagon wants him beaten. The media wants him beaten. Even his own party wants him beaten. He is a threat to the rulers of the world – unlike Hillary Clinton who has left no doubt she is prepared to go to war with nuclear-armed Russia and China.

The Clinton Danger   

Clinton has the form, as she often boasts. Indeed, her record is proven. As a senator, she backed the bloodbath in Iraq. When she ran against Obama in 2008, she threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran. As Secretary of State, she colluded in the destruction of governments in Libya and Honduras and set in train the baiting of China.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

She has now pledged to support a “no-fly zone” in Syria – a direct provocation for war with Russia. Clinton may well become the most dangerous president of the United States in my lifetime – a distinction for which the competition is fierce.

Without a shred of public evidence, Clinton has accused Russia of supporting Trump and hacking her emails. Released by WikiLeaks, these emails tell us that what Clinton says in private, in speeches to the rich and powerful, is the opposite of what she says in public.

That is why silencing and threatening Julian Assange is so important. As the editor of WikiLeaks, Assange knows the truth. And let me assure those who are concerned, he is well, and WikiLeaks is operating on all cylinders.

Today, the greatest build-up of American-led forces since World War Two is under way – in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe, on the border with Russia, and in Asia and the Pacific, where China is the target.

Keep that in mind when the presidential election circus reaches its finale on Nov. 8. If the winner is Clinton, a Greek chorus of witless commentators will celebrate her coronation as a great step forward for women. None will mention Clinton’s victims: the women of Syria, the women of Iraq, the women of Libya. None will mention the civil defense drills being conducted in Russia. None will recall Edward Bernays’s “torches of freedom.”

Scott McClellan, who had been George W. Bush’s press spokesman, once called the media “complicit enablers.” Coming from a senior official in an administration whose lies, enabled by the media, caused such suffering, that description is a warning from history.

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor said of the German media: “Before every major aggression, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack. In the propaganda system, it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.”

This is adapted from an address to the Sheffield Festival of Words, Sheffield, England. – the films and journalism of John Pilger.

38 comments for “Selling ‘Regime Change’ Wars to the Masses

  1. Elizabeth
    October 30, 2016 at 14:09

    Excellent article. Thanks.

  2. Jay
    October 29, 2016 at 12:25

    “regime change” doesn’t really apply to Yugoslavia.

    The attack on Serbia, by NATO, came after a long term civil war–a civil war not limited to Kosovo.

    Want to argue that beginning in the early 1990s, the US and Germans instigated that civil war and then helped it continue, so as to destroy a unified Yugoslavia, sure, but provide evidence.

    • Abe
      October 30, 2016 at 00:03

      The Yugoslav Wars fought from 1991 to 2001 were a decade-long Western-backed “regime change” project.

      Exploiting Yugoslavia’s inner contradictions, economic inefficiencies, and ethno-religious tensions, Western governments and financial interests promoted a series of ethnically-based “civil wars” designed to effectively break up Yugoslavia and establish a permanent NATO military presence in the strategic Balkans region.

      Like today’s US/Israel-backed al-Qaeda assault on Syria, the Yugoslav Wars involved Western-backed terrorist groups and false accusations of “genocide”.

      The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) sought the separation of Kosovo from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) during the 1990s and the eventual creation of a Greater Albania. The KLA campaign against Yugoslav security forces, police, government officers, and ethnic Serb villages precipitated a major crackdown by the Yugoslav military and Serb paramilitaries within Kosovo known as the Kosovo War of 1998–99. The fighting led to the displacement of 800,000 Kosovar Albanians.

      Proceeds from narcotics trafficking donated by Albanian drug lords nevertheless formed a significant portion of the KLA’s income. When the US State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization in 1998, it noted its links to the heroin trade, and a briefing paper for the US Congress stated: “We would be remiss to dismiss allegations that between 30 and 50 percent of the KLA’s money comes from drugs.” By 1999, Western intelligence agencies estimated that over $250m of narcotics money had found its way into KLA coffers.

      The Kosovo war culminated in a NATO military campaign against FRY armed forces during March–June 1999. After the NATO bombing, KLA-linked heroin traffickers again began using Kosovo as a major supply route; in 2000, an estimated 80% of Europe’s heroin supply was controlled by Kosovar Albanians.

  3. Dadda
    October 29, 2016 at 00:06

    A very good piece on the history of the Syrian war here;

    “Documents prepared by US Congress researchers in 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels was based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it was simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus. Indeed, the researchers acknowledged that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the secular Arab nationalist government in Damascus was unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference was for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.) The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering open market, free enterprise economies.”

    • Joe L.
      October 30, 2016 at 23:56

      I would suggest watching US 4-star General Wesley Clark’s speeches in 2007 (predating Libya and Syria) about US government plans to overthrow the government’s of 7 countries in 5 years (the Project for a New American Century headed by Victoria Nuland’s husband Robert Kagan who is unsurprisingly a Clinton supporter). Hence why Assad has to go.

  4. Zachary Smith
    October 28, 2016 at 22:20

    In 1929, as a publicist for the cigarette industry, Bernays persuaded feminists to promote cigarettes for women by smoking in the New York Easter Parade – behavior then considered outlandish.

    In defense of the propagandist, it’s my understanding that the bad effects of tobacco weren’t well known back then. As for stoking WW1, I’m downloading some of his books to look into that. While examining one of them I discovered the man was definitely “history challenged” with a claim he had made about propaganda in the US Civil War. But I’d suppose that after getting to a certain level of acknowledged “expertise”, his claims were no longer closely examined. That, and it is a LOT easier to quickly research a little question in 2016 than it was 90 years ago.

    • Gregory Herr
      October 29, 2016 at 00:12

      “Bernays’s influence extended far beyond advertising. His greatest success was his role in convincing the American public to join the slaughter of the First World War. The secret, he said, was “engineering the consent” of people in order to “control and regiment [them] according to our will without their knowing about it.”
      He described this as “the true ruling power in our society” and called it an “invisible government.”

      According to our will? Guess he considered himself part of the true ruling power. He may not have known about the dangers of smoking, but I imagine he understood the dangers of war…but of course he wasn’t going to be among the men sent to die. Uncle Sig should have told him to check his ego.

      • Zachary Smith
        October 29, 2016 at 11:55

        “Bernays’s influence extended far beyond advertising. His greatest success was his role in convincing the American public to join the slaughter of the First World War.”

        Mr. Pilger seems to have erred with this claim.

        From 1913 to 1917 Bernays worked as a publicist for theatrical productions and promoted the appearances of such artists as Enrico Caruso and the Diaghilev ballet company. When the United States entered World War I Bernays offered his services to the government’s Committee on Public Information. The committee, headed by ex-newspaperman George Creel, was designed to generate public support at home and abroad for America’s war aims.

        As Bernays was born in 1891, he was only 26 at the start of WW1, and from his point of view working for a government agency supporting the war must have appeared to be a much safer prospect than getting drafted and carrying a rifle into the European trenches. But in any event, he obviously had no part in agitating for the war.

        This essay caused me to become interested enough in Bernay’s career that I looked into buying his autobiography. The least expensive book I could locate was $55 plus shipping! Maybe some other time…

  5. Kiza
    October 28, 2016 at 21:50

    The Western media are simply sewage. Would you let a 12″ pipe carrying raw sewage into your home persist? In some instances the morons are even paying for this sewage feed. If US election coverage is not sufficient to explain the nature of the pipe from the media owners into your home, then nothing will be sufficient.

    Turn off media and become a free mind, the Internet contains everything you would like to know, if you manage to avoid Deep State disinformation operations online. No media “news”, not now not ever.

  6. J'hon Doe II
    October 28, 2016 at 16:45

    Economic Hegemony Loss To China Looming! Powerful Investors Have Trump Call For An About Face
    in Imperialism —
    by Jay Janson —
    July 17, 2016

    The willingness of humanity to continue to accept the white world’s profitable investments in genocide will end in 25 years when world economic power shifts from Europeans, and their descendant nations, to the six sevenths of humanity they plundered. Realizing this, leaders of 1/10th of 1% who rule America have Trump demanding investment in the US instead of in the low wage 3rd World that China will soon lead.

    • J'hon Doe II
      October 28, 2016 at 19:31

      God forbid !

  7. Dimitri Tripodakis
    October 28, 2016 at 15:58

    Priceless article. Très Bien Monsieur Pilger

  8. Gary Hare
    October 28, 2016 at 15:58

    Who’d have thought that the quiet “bookish” boy in class 3D at Sydney Boys High School in 1955 would become the mirror for todays’ journalists to see their hypocrisy and the duplicity of their Governments?

  9. Zachary Smith
    October 28, 2016 at 14:49

    The difference is that these fanatics are supported, supplied and armed by “us” – by the United States and Britain. They even have a media center that is funded by Britain and America.

    At the Sputnik web site I found a link to a German newspaper instructing readers that there IS such a thing as our Good Bombs – as compared to their Bad Bombs.


    Here is the compressed link:

    The modern world is much easier to handle when viewed through the tinted lens of the professional propagandists.

    I believe we can take it for granted President Hillary will never use any Bad Bombs when we’re crushing some little country somewhere. They will always be Good Bombs which reflect American Exceptionalism and our general Goodness.

  10. Bob Van Noy
    October 28, 2016 at 14:32

    Pseudo intelligence indeed, thanks Abe. It is the absence of alternate view points that infuriate me the most. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis however flawed, still allows for discussion and possible resolution, whereas, in our supposed diplomacy we have only certainty.

    To follow Abe above…

  11. george mcglynn
    October 28, 2016 at 14:08

    Pilger’s article brings sanity to the situation regarding U.S. foreign policy.

    • RMcHewn
      October 29, 2016 at 18:00

      I certainly hope that you were trying to say that Pilger’s article highlights the insanity regarding US foreign policy, because I look at Washington and see nothing but “armed and dangerous terrorists” who are above the law: War criminals, actually.

  12. Bill Bodden
    October 28, 2016 at 13:43

    John Pilger also edited Tell Me No Lies, a collection of 29 essays “of the most influential investigative writing of the past 60 years.” Given that there were no contributions from Robert Parry, Gary Webb and many others in this book it was like a canker on a syphilitic body – a symptom of corporeal decadence.

  13. Abe
    October 28, 2016 at 13:24

    Fake “citizen investigators” like Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat are employed as deception conduits by the more aggressive factions in Western governments, which seek to sabotage peace efforts in Ukraine, Syria and other parts of the world.

    NGOs: Grassroots Empowerment or Tool of Information Warfare?

    The Internet offers a ubiquitous, inexpensive and anonymous method for “open source” deception and rapid propaganda dissemination.

    With no credible evidence of crimes by the Syrian government in its battle against terrorists or direct Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine, and faced with the prevailing distrust of the Pentagon or Western intelligence agencies, Washington advanced an internet-based “open source” Propaganda 3.0 strategy.

    The Pentagon and Western intelligence agencies now disseminate propaganda by making it “publicly available” via numerous channels, including “investigations” conducted by fake “citizen journalist” Higgins and his Bellingcat site.

    The actual purpose of these fake “citizen journalist” deception operatives is to provide a channel for Western propaganda to more effectively reach the public and be perceived as truthful.

    As Ray McGovern pointed out in “Propaganda, Intelligence and MH-17” on Consortium News (August 17, 2015):

    “The key difference between the traditional ‘Intelligence Assessment’ and this relatively new creation, a ‘Government Assessment’ is that the latter genre is put together by senior White House bureaucrats or other political appointees, not senior intelligence analysts. Another significant difference is that an ‘Intelligence Assessment’ often includes alternative views, either in the text or in footnotes, detailing disagreements among intelligence analysts, thus revealing where the case may be weak or in dispute.

    “The absence of an ‘Intelligence Assessment’ suggested that honest intelligence analysts were resisting a knee-jerk indictment of Russia, just as they did after the first time Kerry pulled this ‘Government Assessment’ arrow out of his quiver trying to stick the blame for an Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus on the Syrian government.”

    The primary source in both “Government Assessment” episodes, both the 2013 chemical attack in Syria and the 2014 crash of MH-17 in Ukraine, the one person in common who generated what McGovern accurately described as “pseudo-intelligence product, which contained not a single verifiable fact”, was British blogger and media darling Eliot Higgins.

    Higgins and the Bellingcat site serve as deception “conduits” as defined by the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Joint Publication 1-02), a compendium of approved terminology used by the U.S. military.

    Within military deception, “conduits” are information or intelligence gateways to the “deception target”, defined as the “adversary decision maker with the authority to make the decision that will achieve the deception objective.”

    The primary “deception targets” of Propaganda 3.0 are Western government policymakers and the civilian populations of the United States and Europe Union.

    Higgins has been actively promoting this deception strategy. In a January 2015 article, “Social media and conflict zones: the new evidence base for policymaking”, Higgins citied “Bellingcat’s MH17 investigation” as a prime example. Higgins’ “overarching point” was that “there is a real opportunity for open source intelligence analysis to provide the kind of evidence base that can underpin effective and successful foreign and security policymaking. It is an opportunity that policymakers should seize.”

    US and EU policymakers definitely have seized the opportunities provided by Higgins, Bellingcat and other “open source” deception operatives.

  14. Abe
    October 28, 2016 at 13:03

    “A glaring example of one of the major pitfalls emerging in supposed ‘new media’ has arisen during the conflict in Syria. Most notably in the form of YouTube blogger, and self-proclaimed weapons expert Eliot Higgins, aka ‘Brown Moses’. The clique of highly ideological analysts, think-tankers and journalists Higgins’ regularly works with and consults – alongside the dubiously funded western NGO’s he receives payment from – provide a stark indication as to the factions within the corporate media circus this supposedly independent blogger is operating in unison with.

    “Higgins has provided the western corporate media apparatus the opportunity to present its war-propaganda as having a “new media” facade of impartial legitimacy. Yet it is the same capitalistic ‘old media’ apparatus endlessly promoting his work – consisting of scouring Jihadist war-porn and agitprop on YouTube for tidbits that may bolster corporate media narratives – as an invaluable tool in tracking human rights abuses, arms trafficking, and risk-free coverage of fast evolving conflicts. Yet contrary to the innocuous portrayal of an unemployed YouTube addict in Leicester becoming a credible analyst of a conflict in the Middle East; Higgins’ blog has been thrust into the foreground not through the benefit of impartiality or public appraisals, but through corporate ‘benefactors’ with vested interest operating alongside the same ‘old media’ organisations and stenographers.

    “Bloggers such as Higgins promoting themselves as working from an impartial standpoint are actually nothing of the sort and work in complete unison with mainstream journalists and western NGO’s – both in a practical capacity, and an ideological one. As noted at the Land Destroyer blog and others; Higgins was initially pushed into the limelight by the Guardians’ former Middle East editor Brian Whitaker, a ‘journalist’ with the honour of being a lead proponent of almost every smear campaign and piece of western propaganda directed at the Syrian government, while wholeheartedly promoting the Bin Ladenite ‘rebels’ as secular feminist freedom fighters and repeatedly spouting the liberal opportunist mantra of western military ‘action’, which realistically means Imperialist military intervention. Whitaker and Higgins played a lead role in bolstering corporate media’s fantasy narratives throughout the joint NATO-Al Qaeda insurgency in Libya during 2011, with many of the anti-Gaddafi claims they propagated subsequently proven to be speculative at best, outright propaganda at worst […]

    “The working relationship between Higgins and the corporate media became almost uniform during the course of the Syrian conflict; an unsubstantiated anti-Assad, or pro-rebel narrative would predictably form in the corporate media (cluster bombs, chemical weapons, unsolved massacres,) at which point Higgins would jump to the fore with his YouTube analysis in order to bolster mainstream discourse whilst offering the air of impartiality and the crucial ‘open source’ faux-legitimacy. It has become blatantly evident that the ‘rebels’ in both Syria and Libya have made a concerted effort in fabricating YouTube videos in order to incriminate and demonize their opponents while glorifying themselves in a sanitized image. Western media invariably lapped-up such fabrications without question and subsequently built narratives around them – regardless of contradictory evidence or opinion. Yet such media, and more importantly, the specific actors propagating it fraudulently to bolster the flimsiest of western narratives has continued unabated – primarily as a result of the aforementioned ‘old media’ organs endlessly promoting it.”

    Brown Moses and “New Media”; Same as the Old Media
    By Phil Greaves

  15. Abe
    October 28, 2016 at 12:52

    “A recently published report of British parliament’s foreign affairs committee has categorically acknowledged that the Western intervention in Libya in 2011 was not only based upon flawed intelligence but also directly paved the way for the resurgence of Islamist terror groups in the country. What had initially been propagated as a sort of ‘humanitarian intervention’ to ‘protect’ civilians from the ‘tyranny of Gaddafi’ soon exacerbated into the notorious game of regime change and led to the subsequent disaster, proliferation of Islamist groups and Libya’s downfall from a reasonably stable state to a fragmented one. The report’s findings are, as such, highly critical in terms of the way the West, particularly the US, has been projecting the utmost necessity of NATO’s intervention.

    “Even if we were to agree to the Western proposition that Gaddafi regime was inflicting atrocities on its people and that the real goal, as a recent article published by the corporate-funded Brookings Institute argues, was to protect people, the report finds it to be wrong. It unambiguously states:

    “’Many Western policymakers genuinely believed that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered his troops to massacre civilians in Benghazi, if those forces had been able to enter the city. However, while Muammar Gaddafi certainly threatened violence against those who took up arms against his rule, this did not necessarily translate into a threat to everyone in Benghazi. In short, the scale of the threat to civilians was presented with unjustified certainty. US intelligence officials reportedly described the intervention as ‘an intelligence-light decision.’

    “Exposing the hollowness of the propagated ‘truths’ that Gaddafi regime was indiscriminately killing his countrymen and that he would have continued to do so ‘in large numbers if that’s what his survival required’, the report states that nothing of this sort was happening at the time of intervention or was likely to follow. Intervention happened not because Gaddafi was inflicting atrocities but because he was winning the fight against Western and Arab funded militias”

    Libya is a Complete Western Disaster, Finds a British Parliamentary Report
    By Salman Rafi Sheikh

  16. Tom Welsh
    October 28, 2016 at 12:37

    Thanks very much, Mr Pilger, for this crisp, accurate, compelling summary. It bears the stamp of world-class journalism.

  17. Tom Welsh
    October 28, 2016 at 12:36

    I wonder how many million women suffered and died from lung cancer and other terrible diseases because of ‘Edward Bernays’s “torches of freedom”‘? He must have been very proud – he probably was responsible for killing more women than all the Americans who died in all the wars of the 20th century combined.

  18. October 28, 2016 at 12:07

    Excellent article.

    Who will bring them to justice for crimes against humanity?
    The people who were, and are, the planners of this warring insanity
    The Iraq war was a hellish lie about weapons of mass destruction
    The invasion of that country was a planned diabolical production

    A civil war now rages in that destroyed and unfortunate country
    Hundreds of thousands are dead or maimed, and that puts it, bluntly
    Many others are refugees from this created hell on earth
    And depleted uranium contaminates innocent children at birth

    Libya is another war crime dubbed “responsibility to protect”
    Bombed and blitzed by NATO “allies” with great “successful” effect
    That country is now in ruins, and terrorists are in control
    The “victory” of “honourable” plotters, and men without a soul

    Then the war criminals targeted Syria and started a civil war
    They finance and arm the terrorists amongst the blood and gore
    Then they blame its sovereign government for defending its own land
    These hypocrites from hell: all these atrocities they planned

    Yemen is another country where civilians are being slaughtered
    Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies are the hellish plotters
    Arms, planes, tanks and bombs supplied by America, U.K. and others
    And the population cries out over the deaths of their mothers and daughters

    Afghanistan is another country that never invaded us
    It too is now a hell on earth with corpses in the dust
    Soldiers are dead or dying that were sent to this awful war
    And those who sent them cry out for more and more and more

    War is a business for barbarians in expensive business suits
    Corporate cannibals feed off death and destruction, are they callous brutes?
    Political “warriors” voted for these wars that brought death and destruction
    But, they don’t fight on the front lines, and they are missing in the action

    It is no excuse for the perpetrators to say: “we were just following orders”
    That excuse was thrown out at the “Nuremberg Trials,” and is a known disorder
    Present day trials are needed, for those that planned these obscenities
    But, who will bring them to justice for crimes against humanity?

    “The Nuremberg trials were a series of trials held between 1945 and 1949 in which the Allies prosecuted German military leaders, political officials, industrialists, and financiers for crimes they had committed during World War II.”

    [read more at link below]

      • November 6, 2016 at 17:46

        How Freud and psychoanalysis completely missed it as far as actually helping and enabling people to deal with the real root of their distress:

        According to the late writer and psychotherapist Alice Miller, Freud’s theories, such as his theories of infantile sexuality, the Oedipus complex, and the death instinct, were invented by Freud as a way of avoiding the truth of parents being abusive and being to blame for any problems a patient may have. Always protect the parents and blame the child.

        2. Why are therapists so dependent on Freudian theory?

        2. Because this theory helps them to conceal the painful truth. Freud realized and published 1896 that neurosis is the result of child-mistreatment (To him it was above all the sexual abuse). As a result, he was confronted with hatred and rejection of all of his colleagues and could not bear this loneliness. So he invented a theory of the infantile sexuality and the Oedipus complex that protects the parents and blames the child. With this construction he offered his colleagues a lie that was and is still being accepted with much enthusiasm because it helps to protect the parents and to avoid the feared rebellion of the child against them. (In my book “Thou Shalt Not Be Aware” I describe this story extensively). UNFORTUNATELY, IT IS EXACTLY THIS LIE, THE DENIAL OF THE TRUTH THAT MAKES PEOPLE ILL AND DEPRESSIVE. When they dare to admit the truth, namely that they were treated cruelly in their childhood they can heal from their depression, often very quickly. On my mailbox many stories report about this positive outcome.

        And incidentally if one is taught from early childhood on to always accept and never question what is said and done by one’s parents (especially if it is always or almost always supposedly “for one’s own good”), and does not later question such teaching, then it makes sense that the child will then as an adult accept and go along with what is said by anybody in a position of authority or influence, such as advertisers, politicians, preachers, etc.

    • J'hon Doe II
      October 28, 2016 at 16:12
  19. Sam
    October 28, 2016 at 11:34

    This corruption results from the seizing of US mass media and elections by economic concentrations. Odd to call them “liberal media” when their constant warmongering shows them to be the tyrants over democracy against whom Aristotle warned millennia ago, who must create foreign enemies to pose as protectors and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty.

    Sad that the salesmen of fake democracy(tm) and R2P have exhausted public patience and budget for interventionism, which if humanitarian would have created a real American Century, lifting half the world’s population from poverty, instead of killing millions for campaign bribes and dooming the nation.

    This is what happens when economic concentration seizes mass media and elections to control a former democracy, against which our Constitution provides no protection, as it was written when the largest businesses were small ships and plantations that would all be small businesses today.

    Without those tools of democracy there is no peaceful way to get money out of politics and elections. Education does not work against such heavy propaganda. Internal dissent faces a totalitarian state of surveillance and militarized police, vastly worse than anything the Bolsheviks faced.

    That leaves external isolation and weakening by the victims of the US, as happened to Rome. Whatever the price, let it be sooner rather than later.

    • JWalters
      October 28, 2016 at 19:38

      Very well put. And the most profitable business is war, so war profits tend to take over other industries, like “news”. The chaos in the Middle East was predicted by American Secretaries of State and Defense back in the 1940’s, described in “War Profiteers and the Roots of the War on Terror” at

  20. Joe Tedesky
    October 28, 2016 at 11:15

    Our American news media is in reality an entertainment show selling a false narrative which benefits the special few who rule the world. Hillary’s win is all decided and ready set to go. All Hillary is waiting for is the official date November 8th, and then she will achieve that crown she so desperately cheated for. The worst part is, I don’t see anyone capable enough to rival any of this, and lead us towards putting in place a responsible and accountable government which may remedy our country’s and the world’s many problems in a decent way. No, with Hillary it will all be the same. Military Industrial Complex will continue to thrive under her rule. Wall Street is her middle name, so nothing will improve there. America needs to lock the door from foreign financial contributions which influence our easily swayed politicians. Anti Trust laws that are badly needed, will never happen, and because of this inaction nothing much will change for the good of the average citizen. What we require isn’t on the horizon. Nothing will change while there is no diversity of thought towards how to tackle our varied problems, and today I certainly don’t see nor hear a voice of any leader who will guide us to the promise land. So do whatever it was you did yesterday, and plan on doing it tomorrow, that is until your not allowed to do it no more.

    • Bill Bodden
      October 28, 2016 at 13:58

      The worst part is, I don’t see anyone capable enough to rival any of this, and lead us towards putting in place a responsible and accountable government which may remedy our country’s and the world’s many problems in a decent way.

      The oligarchs of the (un)Democratic and Republican parties will not tolerate the threat of such a rival and will immediately initiate a plan to destroy his or her candidacy. If necessary, the parties will collude with each other as they have in the past to ensure we don’t have a government of, for and by the people.

  21. Joe L.
    October 28, 2016 at 11:09

    Thank you John. As always you have provided a truthful and compelling article which is also why you are one of my favourite journalists. Cheers.

  22. Bob Van Noy
    October 28, 2016 at 10:35

    Thank you so much John Pilger for this summation, I think it’s the clearest that I’ve seen on our American problem with Empire. I especially like your “take” on the liberal media. The extreme bias in media, isn’t so much liberal as it is a failure of elite high education stretching all the way to England and Europe… Embracing deeply flawed think tank consensus, from major universities on economics and geo-politics has proven to be a disaster for liberal democracy. It needs to be examined and probably put on trial…

    • Bill Bodden
      October 28, 2016 at 13:51

      The extreme bias in media, isn’t so much liberal as it is a failure of elite high education stretching all the way to England and Europe

      and back for many generations. As a commentator on this blog once referred to US colleges in the northeast – the poison Ivy League.

      The purpose of all education in the western world is not to make progress towards a civilized society but to provide servants for the ruling establishments.

  23. October 28, 2016 at 09:45

    The morons who have been seeking regime change in Syria are the same morons who sought regime change in Libya. How did that work out? And Iraq? The list goes on, but the point is this: we are the ones who need a regime change.

    • Joe L.
      October 28, 2016 at 11:10

      Meanwhile, in the latest news, I keep hearing calls for North Korea to disarm itself and I keep thinking about how well that worked out for Hussein, Gaddafi, and Assad.

    • anon
      October 28, 2016 at 11:48

      Yes, we need regime change, but the alternative to the militarists reflects the same public ignorance. The best advice I have heard is to vote Trump in the swing states and independent elsewhere. So we can have everything we despise in domestic policy to reduce the chances of everything we despise in foreign policy. Maybe casting a bullet rather than a ballot is the better means of voting nowadays.

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