Yes, Virginia, There Is a Deep State and Bob Parry Exposed It
In his efforts to uncover the Iran-Contra plot and the machinations surrounding Russia-gate, Bob Parry was in the forefront of journalists exposing the inner workings of the Deep State, recalls Ray McGovern during our Winter Fund Drive.
By Ray McGovern Special to Consortium News
A year ago yesterday, it became fully clear what was behind the feverish attempt by our intelligence agencies and their mainstream media accomplices to emasculate President Donald Trump with the Russia-gate trope. It turned out that the objective was not only to delegitimize Trump and make it impossible for him to move toward a more decent relationship with Russia.
On December 12, 2017, it became manifestly clear that it was not only the usual suspects — the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank Complex, namely, the Boeings, Lockheeds, and Raytheons profiteering on high tension with Russia; not only greedy members of Congress upon whom defense contractors lavish some of their profits; not only the TV corporations controlled by those same contractors; and not only the Democrats desperately searching for a way to explain how Hillary Clinton could have lost to the buffoon we now have in the White House.
No, it was deeper than that. It turns out a huge part of the motivation behind Russia-gate was to hide how the Department of Justice, FBI, and CIA (affectionately known as the Deep State) — with their co-opted “assets” in the media — interfered in the 2016 election in a gross attempt to make sure Trump did not win.
Russia-gate: Cui Bono?
This would become crystal clear, even to cub reporters, when the text exchanges between senior FBI officials Peter Strzok and girlfriend Lisa Page were released exactly a year ago. Typically, readers of The New York Times the following day would altogether miss the importance of the text-exchanges.
Readers of Robert Parry’s article on December 13, 2017, “The Foundering Russia-gate ‘Scandal,” would be gently led to understand the importance of this critical extra dimension explaining the the media-cum-anonymous-intelligence-sources frenzied effort to push the prevailing Russia-gate narrative, and — and how captivated and unprofessional the mainstream media had become.
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Bob Parry did not call me frequently to compare notes, but he did call on Dec. 12, 2017 for a sanity check on the release of the Strzok-Page texts. We agreed on their significance, and I was tempted to volunteer a draft to appear the next day. But it was clear that Bob wanted to take the lead, and it would turn out to be his last substantive piece. He had already laid the groundwork with three articles earlier that month. (All three are worth reading again. Here arethelinks.
Here’s how Bob began his article on the Strzok-Page bombshell. (Not a fragment of it seemed to impact mainstream media.):
“The disclosure of fiercely anti-Trump text messages between two romantically involved senior FBI officials who played key roles in the early Russia-gate inquiry has turned the supposed Russian-election-meddling “scandal” into its own scandal, by providing evidence that some government investigators saw it as their duty to block or destroy Donald Trump’s presidency.
“As much as the U.S. mainstream media has mocked the idea that an American ‘deep state’ exists and that it has maneuvered to remove Trump from office, the text messages between senior FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page reveal how two high-ranking members of the government’s intelligence/legal bureaucracy saw their role as protecting the United States from an election that might elevate to the presidency someone as unfit as Trump.”
Parry’s Cri de Coeur
Fast forwarding just two weeks, Bob had a stroke on Christmas Eve, which seriously affected his eyesight. By New Year’s Eve 2017, though, he was able to “apologize” (typical Bob) to Consortium News readers for not filing for two weeks.
In January, he had additional strokes. When I visited him in the hospital, he was not himself. What is indelible in my memory, though, is the way he kept repeating from his hospital bed: “It’s too much; it’s just too much, too much.”
What was too much?
Since Bob told me how hard he had to struggle, with impaired vision, to put together his Dec. 31 piece, and since what he wrote throws such light on Bob and the prostitution of the profession he loved so much, I include a few excerpts below. (Forgive me, but I cannot, for the life of me, pare them down further.)
These paragraphs from Bob are required reading for those who want to have a some clue as to what has been going on in Washington, and the Faustian bargain Strzok — sorry, I mean struck — between the media and the Deep State. Here’s what Bob, clear-eyed, despite fuzzy eyesight, wrote:
“On Christmas Eve, I suffered a stroke that has affected my eyesight (especially my reading and thus my writing) although apparently not much else. The doctors have also been working to figure out exactly what happened since I have never had high blood pressure, I never smoked, and my recent physical found nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps my personal slogan that ‘every day’s a work day’ had something to do with this.
“Perhaps, too, the unrelenting ugliness that has become Official Washington and national journalism was a factor. It seems that since I arrived in Washington in 1977 as a correspondent for The Associated Press, the nastiness of American democracy and journalism has gone from bad to worse. …
“More and more I would encounter policymakers, activists and, yes, journalists who cared less about a careful evaluation of the facts and logic and more about achieving a pre-ordained geopolitical result –and this loss of objective standards reached deeply into the most prestigious halls of American media. This perversion of principles –twisting information to fit a desired conclusion – became the modus vivendi of American politics and journalism. And those of us who insisted on defending the journalistic principles of skepticism and evenhandedness were increasingly shunned by our colleagues … Everything became ‘information warfare.’ …
“The demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia is just the most dangerous feature of this propaganda process – and this is where the neocons and the liberal interventionists most significantly come together. The U.S. media’s approach to Russia is now virtually 100 percent propaganda. Does any sentient human being read the New York Times’ or the Washington Post’s coverage of Russia and think that he or she is getting a neutral or unbiased treatment of the facts? … The American people and the West in general are carefully shielded from hearing the ‘other side of the story.’ Indeed to even suggest that there is another side to the story makes you a ‘Putin apologist’ or ‘Kremlin stooge.’
“Western journalists now apparently see it as their patriotic duty to hide key facts that otherwise would undermine the demonizing of Putin and Russia. Ironically, many ‘liberals’ who cut their teeth on skepticism about the Cold War and the bogus justifications for the Vietnam War now insist that we must all accept whatever the U.S. intelligence community feeds us, even if we’re told to accept the assertions on faith. …
“The hatred of Trump and Putin was so intense that old-fashioned rules of journalism and fairness were brushed aside. On a personal note, I faced harsh criticism even from friends of many years for refusing to enlist in the anti-Trump ‘Resistance.’ The argument was that Trump was such a unique threat to America and the world that I should join in finding any justification for his ouster. Some people saw my insistence on the same journalistic standards that I had always employed somehow a betrayal.
“Other people, including senior editors across the mainstream media, began to treat the unproven Russia-gate allegations as flat fact. No skepticism was tolerated and mentioning the obvious bias among the never-Trumpers inside the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community was decried as an attack on the integrity of the U.S. government’s institutions. Anti-Trump ‘progressives’ were posturing as the true patriots because of their now unquestioning acceptance of the evidence-free proclamations of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
“Hatred of Trump had become like some invasion of the body snatchers –or perhaps many of my journalistic colleagues had never believed in the principles of journalism that I had embraced throughout my adult life. To me, journalism wasn’t just a cover for political activism; it was a commitment to the American people and the world to tell important news stories as fully and fairly as I could; not to slant the ‘facts’ to ‘get’ some ‘bad’ political leader or ‘guide’ the public in some desired direction.”
Robert Parry died on January 27, 2018. Our corrupt media, though, live on in infamy. Strokes and pancreatic cancer were named as the cause. But I think Bob was also a casualty of the Faustian media/Deep State bargain. It was just “too much.”
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. Bob Parry was happily surprised when he learned that CIA and other intelligence analysts, as opposed to operations people, were as devoted as he was to spreading some truth around; he welcomed our input — in particular the corporate memos from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity; the VIPS archive on CN appears at: https://consortiumnews.com/vips-memos/
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A Concise History of Consortium News by Robert Parry
During the 2011 Winter Fund Drive, ex-CIA analyst (and peace activist) Ray McGovern suggested that the late Bob Parry write a brief narrative to explain Consortium News’ history and goals.
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A Brief Narrative of Consortium News
By Robert Parry Special to Consortium News
In 1995, after more than two decades in the mainstream news media (AP, Newsweek and PBS), I founded Consortiumnews.com as a home for the serious journalism that no longer had a place in an American news business that had lost its way.
At the time, I was the lead journalist on what had become known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and I had watched first-hand as senior news executives chose to squelch that inquiry apparently out of fear that it would cause another impeachment crisis around another Republican president, Ronald Reagan.
Such a possibility was deemed “not good for the country,” a view held both inside Congress and in the boardrooms of the elite national news media. But I refused to accept the judgment. I continued to pursue the many loose ends of the scandal, from evidence of drug trafficking by Reagan’s beloved Nicaraguan Contras to suspicions that the arms-for-hostages deals with Iran started much earlier, possibly even during the 1980 presidential campaign.
My insistence on getting to the bottom of this historically important story alienated me from my senior editors at Newsweek and from many of my journalistic colleagues who simply wanted to keep their jobs and avoid trouble. But it offended me that the national press corps was signing off on what amounted to a high-level cover-up.
The era of Watergate had come full circle. Instead of exposing crimes and cover-ups, the Washington press corps’ job had changed into harassing and mocking serious investigators the likes of Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh who stayed on the trail.
Consistency and persistence were oh so passe’. The Washington news media had drifted into a culture of careerism where top jobs paid well into the six- and even seven-figures. Your hair style and glib presentation on TV were far more important than the quality of your reporting. And the most important thing was to avoid the wrath of right-wing attack groups who would “controversialize” you.
By the mid-90s, it had become clear to me that there was no feasible way to do the work that had to be done within the confines of the mainstream media. The pressures on everyone had grown too intense. No matter how solid the reporting, many issues were simply off limits, particularly scandals that reflected badly on the admired duo of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Even when I obtained highly classified government documents in 1994-95 shedding light on how U.S. policies toward Iraq and Iran had evolved at the start of the Reagan-Bush era, this information could find no home even in the liberal outliers of the mainstream media.
Quitting the Mainstream
So, on the advice of my oldest son Sam, who told me about this strange new phenomenon called the Internet, I started this Web site in fall 1995.
Besides seeing Consortiumnews.com as a place for serious journalism, I also envisioned it as a refuge for quality journalists who faced the same frustrations that I did. I thought we could provide editing and financial support, as well as an outlet that would distribute their stories to the public. Hence, the rather clunky name, Consortiumnews. At the time, I thought I could raise a significant amount of money for the project.
However, during my initial contacts with public-interest and liberal foundations, I was told that a major objection to funding journalism was the cost. The feeling was that information was an expensive luxury. But I thought I could prove that assumption wrong by applying old-fashioned journalistic standards to this new medium.
To start the Web site the first of its kind on the Internet I cashed out my Newsweek retirement fund and we began producing groundbreaking reporting original to the Web. Over time, we showed that quality journalism could be done at a bargain-basement price.
Yet, despite our journalistic success, foundations and large funders remained skittish. We became an IRS-recognized 501-c-3 non-profit in 1999 (as the Consortium for Independent Journalism) and received some modest grants, but we have never been funded at the level that I had hoped.
Indeed, at the start of the crucial 2000 presidential campaign, our financial situation had grown so dire that I was forced to take an editing job at Bloomberg News and put the Web site on a part-time basis. We still published some important stories about the campaign, including how unfairly the Washington press corps was treating Al Gore and how outrageous the Florida recount was, but we didn’t have the impact that we could have had.
During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2002-03, we also challenged Washington’s conventional wisdom, which was solidly behind George W. Bush’s case for war. But again our voice was muted.
Finally, in early 2004, I felt it was important to pull together our volumes of original material about the Bush Family before that year’s election. For personal financial reasons, I couldn’t leave Bloomberg News until April (and I must admit it wasn’t easy stepping away from a six-figure salary). But I felt I had no choice.
After quitting, I accelerated the pace at Consortiumnews.com and got to work on a book that became Secrecy & Privilege, the history of the Bush Dynasty.
After George W. Bush got his second term, we still kept at it at Consortiumnews.com, contesting his claims about the Iraq War and his broader neoconservative strategy, which combined violence in the Middle East with an assault on civil liberties at home. I felt it was especially crucial to explain the real history of U.S. relations with Iran and Iraq, a narrative that had been grossly distorted by the cover-ups in the 1980s and early 1990s.
MSM and CIA Parallels
To my great satisfaction, we also began developing what might be regarded as unlikely relationships with former CIA analysts, such as Ray McGovern, Peter Dickson, Melvin Goodman and Elizabeth Murray. Though these CIA folks had been trained not to talk to journalists like me, it turned out they also were looking for places to impart their important knowledge.
I found that our experiences had run on parallel tracks. In the 1980s, as the Washington press corps was facing intense pressure to toe the Reagan-Bush line, the CIA analysts were experiencing the same thing inside their offices at Langley. It became clear to me that the Right’s central strategy of that era had been to seize control of the information flows out of Washington.
To do so required transforming both CIA analysts and Washington journalists into propagandists. The crowning achievement of that project had been the cowering CIA “analysis” and the fawning “journalism” that had been used to whip up popular support for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.
And that is where I fear we still stand, stuck in a dangerous swamp of disinformation, spin and lies.
Though the election of Barack Obama in 2008 showed that the Right’s propaganda machine is not all-powerful, it remains the most intimidating political force in the United States. It can literally create scandals out of nothing, like the “birther” controversy that persuaded many Americans that Obama was born in Kenya despite clear evidence to the contrary. On economic topics, millions of Americans are convinced to oppose their own best interests.
Today, the Right along with much of the Washington mainstream media is reprising the propagandistic treatment of Iraq regarding Iran, with a new conflict increasingly likely as the American public again gets whipped up into a war frenzy.
Still, my hope remains that we can finally gain the financial backing that we need at Consortiumnews.com to be a strong voice for truth and a way to maintain the best principles of journalism in order to counteract the exaggerations and hysteria that are again taking hold in America.
If you want to help us, you can make a donation by credit card at the Web site or by check to Consortium for Independent Journalism (CIJ); 2200 Wilson Blvd.; Suite 102-231; Arlington VA 22201. Or you can use PayPal (our account is named after our e-mail address “firstname.lastname@example.org”).
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The late Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. He founded Consortiumnews.com in 1995 as the Internet’s first investigative magazine. He saw it as a way to combine modern technology and old-fashioned journalism to counter the increasing triviality of the mainstream U.S. news media.
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Kwiatkowski Gets 2018 Sam Adams Award. Read the Citation and Her Acceptance Speech Here.
Here is Karen Kwiatowski’s acceptance speech for the 2018 Sam Adams Award at a ceremony in Washington on Saturday night, preceded by the citation, that was read by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
“If you see something, say something,” we so often hear. Karen Kwiatkowski took that saying to heart.
She saw her Pentagon superiors acting as eager accomplices to the Cheney/Bush administration’s deceit in launching a war of aggression on Iraq. And she said something — and helped Knight Ridder reporters Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay see beneath the official lies and get the sordid story right before the war.
Karen’s courage brings to mind the clarion call of Rabbi Abraham Heschel against the perpetrators of an earlier war — Vietnam. “Few are guilty,” he said, “but all are responsible. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself.” Karen would not be indifferent to evil.
Ed Snowden, Sam Adams awardee in 2013, noted that we tend to ignore some degree of evil in our daily life, but, as Ed put it, “We also have a breaking point and when people find that, they act.” As did Karen. As did 16 of Karen’s predecessors honored with this award.
With all the gloom and doom enveloping us, we tend to wonder whether people with the conscience and courage of Ed or Karen still exist in and outside our national security establishment. Our country is in dire need of new patriots of this kind.
Meanwhile, we call to mind the courageous example not only of Karen and Ed, but also of Coleen Rowley and Elizabeth Gun, our first two awardees, who took great risks in trying to head off the attack on Iraq. And we again honor Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange who is now isolated in what the UN has called “arbitrary detention,” for exposing the war crimes resulting from that war.
Karen Kwiatkowski has made her own unique contribution to this company of conscience and courage, and Sam Adams Associates are pleased to honor her.
Presented this 8th day of December 2018 in Washington by admirers of the example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams.Know all ye by these presents that Karen Kwiatkowski is hereby honored with the traditional Sam Adams Corner-Brightener Candlestick Holder, in symbolic recognition of her courage in shining light into dark places.
‘Thoughts on the Sam Adams Award’:
Remarks by Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatowski
I am honored beyond belief to be the 2018 recipient of the Sam Adams Award, and I thank Ray McGovern and the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder during the run up to the second invasion of Iraq, and Rob Reiner for putting together a great movie that was so consistently truthful, that for me, it looked almost like a documentary. I want to also thank the late David Hackworth, a man I never met who published my first anonymous essays from the Pentagon, and of course, Lew Rockwell, who has published so many of my essays examining and trying to understand our government and our offensive policies over the past 15 years.
There have been many American patriots and truth tellers who have received the honor you have given me tonight – and I am going to name them here because I stand in awe of all of them:
Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance, former US Army Sgt; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks: Thomas Drake, of NSA; Jesselyn Radack, formerly of Dept. of Justice and now National Security Director of Government Accountability Project; Thomas Fingar, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Director, National Intelligence Council, and Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency; Chelsea Manning, US Army Private who exposed (via WikiLeaks) key information on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as State Department activities; and to retired National Security Agency official William Binney, who challenged decisions to ignore the Fourth Amendment in the government’s massive — and wasteful — collection of electronic data.
Again, I am very humbled and almost speechless tonight. But not entirely speechless.
My backstory is pretty well-known to most people here, and to anyone who was interested in understanding US war policy in the early 2000s. I had a small role to play, in concert with a number of other truth tellers in media and in the national security bureaucracy. For every one of us, there were probably 20 to 50 people working beside us and around us, who understood a lot about what was happening, and who probably got a funny feeling about being in an organization where we all swore to uphold the Constitution, but in fact were engaged in promulgating lies of both omission and commission, mistruths and misdirection, aimed not at our enemies abroad but against the American people.
We were lying, with the help of a compliant and war-supportive media, to patriots young and old. Millions of Americans were eager to enlist, to fight, to sacrifice their life and health – for a made-up government fairy tale.
A sense of unease, I believe, was shared by many, many people who never blew a whistle, and never said a word. To their credit, some of these people passively resisted within their organizations, and tried to set things straight where they could. Some of these people simply called their assignments guy and got orders out of the Pentagon, others were removed if they resisted too much. There is always a cost when you seriously question the directions or actions of the bureaucracy that employs you.
It is in our country’s interest — as security professionals, as intelligence professionals, as soldiers and citizens, as writers and newsmakers – to be sensitive to the lawlessness, the immorality, and the wrongdoing of the bureaucracies and the leaders of the organizations we are a part of. That is the first thing we must cultivate and encourage – a sensitivity to and an awareness of something as simple as right and wrong. This is fundamental. From knowing right and wrong, we move to the factor that motivates so many whistleblowers, something that we all share as human beings, and that is an idea of justice.
The truth tellers who have been honored with Sam Adams Award, and thousands of others we may not be aware of around the world, share a concept of justice. For those who try to correct our U.S. government, particularly in its initiation and exercise of war, state-sanctioned murder and physical devastation of whole societies, we as American have tools that many others around the world don’t have. We have a Constitution that many of us swore to uphold. Americans tend to have a good grounding in the fundamentals of right and wrong, derived from religion or tradition, or both. We live in something that calls itself a Republic, and it is a fine form of government, with a solid set of rules.
But how do we get from a certain moral discomfort, from seeing something going on around us that is wrong, to trying to do something about it? How do we decide if we want to leave the room, turn our backs, put our head down, or instead take some sort of action that will put us on a collision course with very powerful people? What if we, as truth tellers, are like blind men describing an elephant – we see only one part of a larger story? How do we decide that our faith in our leadership is misplaced, and that more is at stake then just our jobs?
When you look at the experiences of people who made the dangerous and difficult decision to act, like Daniel Ellsberg, and Sam Adams, and Sibel Edwards, Jesselyn Raddick, Colleen Rowley, Thomas Drake, Ed Snowden, Julian Assange, and many others, you realize that speaking up and doing the right thing had a primary impact. That impact wasn’t improved transparency, a more informed democracy, a more aware and alert citizenry and better government decisions by our elected leaders.
Those were all secondary impacts, and in many cases tenuous, as the improved level of national understanding seems to last for less than a single generation. No, the primary impact was the unimaginable wrath of the state aimed at the life, livelihood, reputation, family, character and credibility of the truthteller. In several cases, this included physical and psychological abuse, prison time, gag orders, and even more devious programs. The rage of the state against these truth tellers is not impulsive and short-lived – it is a forever project funded by tax dollars, and fueled by very profitable agendas.
Knowing all of this, can we really expect to see a healthy and growing flow of truth tellers, whistleblowers, and simply bold honest people speaking out about government lies?
I think we can, and I am optimistic about the possibilities of better government through honest, bold, and forthright people working in and around this government.
To start with, as I mentioned, we as government employees and uniformed service-members need to have a solid sense of right and wrong. We need to cultivate a sense of justice. In a wonderful way, our younger generations are well prepared for this, at least in terms of cultivating a sense of justice. The young people we see portrayed, often disparagingly, as young socialists may not completely understand the nature of government or the state, but they do cherish ideas of justice.
We also need people in government service who are sensitive to what is going on in their organizations, and how people are feeling and behaving around them. It is not coincidence that many of the people who have been honored by this award are women, who may be paying closer attention to the mood and morality of their organizations. There’s a country song that has a line in it about “Old men talking about the weather, and old women talking about old men.” We need both in our organizations, to be in tune with what is happening, and who is leading us.
We need people in government service who are willing to walk away from a job, and to say or even broadcast why they are leaving, without worrying about the next job, without worrying about being blacklisted, without worrying that they can’t make their next house payment or college tuition payment, or the alimony or child support payment. We need people in government who travel light, so to speak, and do their job because they love what they are doing and what it stands for.
This grounding and lack of rigid self-identification with their employing bureaucracy is extremely important. Thanks to technology and societal evolution, the younger generations of Americans are very likely to walk away from a job that they believe to be immoral, to act to correct what they see as wrong or unjust, and incidentally, are less likely to own a home, and more likely to define themselves by what they believe and stand for, not where they work, and how many promotions they had planned for themselves in that organization.
But even with our younger generations coming into government service – with a good sense of justice, a strong sense of self, and a willingness to speak openly about what they believe and know – there is risk when someone questions the collective government story.
There is risk in the act of challenging authority and one’s peer group, risk of being wrong and suffering loss of credibility. There is the rational and real risk of incurring the rage of the state, and being jailed, harmed, ruined and even killed on the whispers of an incensed or threatened agency.
There is another risk that we really don’t talk about much. I think most concerning for many people is the risk that you are actually right, that you have discovered something damning and dark in your country, in your government, in your organization. Once this happens, if it happens, your life is irreversibly changed, and nothing is ever going to be the same. Understanding how your government actually works, in particular how it works to create and provoke war and murder, how it works to extract the wealth of the nation and use this blessing to commit Constitutional crimes and untold evil, in your name – for many this understanding is not a gift, but a curse. I estimate at least 10% of our country, 20 – 30 million Americans, many of them veterans the U.S. Empire’s global adventures in the past 50 years, feel this curse, and many of them deal with it by turning away from the dark side of Washington D.C., and not talking, writing, or speaking about what they know.
If anyone has followed the case of former Marine Sergeant Brandon Raub a few years ago, you realize that the government keeps a close and paranoid eye on what veterans are doing and saying. Given how things work today, they may be wise to turn away silently from the truth they know.
I think this is why it is often hard for us to demand more truth-tellers come forward, especially in the defense and security and intelligence arena, when we should be shouting it from the rooftops.
Some years ago, I did an online radio program where I would interview interesting people, like Ray McGovern and Sam Provance and Sibel Edmonds , among many others. One person, in our conversation, expressed surprise that I was a short (formerly) brown haired woman, when he thought I would be a tall blonde. I was reminded of this when watching Shock and Awe, because Rob Reiner and the writers did not know who I was, and they portrayed me as a tall light-haired woman, a modern day Viking of sorts. Notwithstanding that this is a popular and attractive stereotype, I think there is something to be learned here. We want to believe that anyone who stands up to authority, who knows his or her own mind, who is willing to enter into a battle of wills with the state, and to take a risk is somehow taller, stronger, bolder and braver than the rest of us.
But it isn’t true. There is something remarkably childlike and simple in being honest, in observing without fear what is happening around you, and reporting this to the person who pays the bills. In the case of the national security arena, the bill payer is the American people.
To tell the truth is simple, honorable, and good for the health of the Republic. The fact that it drives the security apparatus and the government crazy is just icing on the cake. Granted, we all need jobs, and our mental health, and we don’t want to be imprisoned, tortured or killed. But the more of us – specifically those working with and inside the US government today – who tell the truth, the less likely that government embarrassment will result in harm to a whistleblower, and the less likely in the long run that we will see whistleblowers as we tend to see them today.
In a world of that values honesty, they would be receiving the public commendation of a proud Congress, a grateful media and President, and a contented population.
I’m not a Pollyanna, and I’m worried about the role the US government is playing at home and abroad. The kind of devastation that the US tolerates, supports and initiates around the world – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, of course Yemen comes to mind, the horrendous situation that Julian Assange is still facing as we speak – is not limited to “overseas.”
The industrial warfare state is as dangerous to Americans as it is to Iraqis, Syrians, and Yemenis. The arts of the warfare state are already being practiced here, against Americans. We – average Americans – are increasingly controlled, spied on, monitored, tracked, threatened, boxed in, and shut down by tools that were first used and tested on some contrived wartime enemy.
You don’t need me to tell you this, it’s in every newspaper every day, on every page. It is our modern reality. Truth and transparency are its only antidote, and truth and transparency needs all of us. To live in a society, to be a citizen, to love your country — you cannot sleepwalk through it.
People who value wisdom, people who value common sense, people who value justice and people who believe that being woke is a good thing – congratulations! You are the majority! You are alive, you are in charge of this country, and you can choose. America is worth preserving, healing, and saving – and if she is to be saved we will do it by first learning the difference between the truth and a lie, and then speaking the truth loudly, boldly, to anyone who will listen, over and over and over again.
The Guardian’s Vilification of Julian Assange
The Guardian did not make a mistake in vilifying Assange without a shred of evidence. It did what it is designed to do, says Jonathan Cook.
By Jonathan Cook Johanthan-Cook.net
It is welcome that finally there has been a little pushback, including from leading journalists, to The Guardian’s long-running vilification of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.
Reporter Luke Harding’s latest article, claiming that Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly visited Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London on three occasions, is so full of holes that even hardened opponents of Assange in the corporate media are struggling to stand by it.
Faced with the backlash, The Guardian quickly – and very quietly – rowed back its initial certainty that its story was based on verified facts. Instead, it amended the text, without acknowledging it had done so, to attribute the claims to unnamed, and uncheckable, “sources”.
The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.
The Guardian’s latest story provides a supposedly stronger foundation for an existing narrative: that Assange and Wikileaks knowingly published emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic party’s servers. In truth, there is no public evidence that the emails were hacked, or that Russia was involved. Central actors have suggested instead that the emails were leaked from within the Democratic party.
Nonetheless, this unverified allegation has been aggressively exploited by the Democratic leadership because it shifts attention away both from its failure to mount an effective electoral challenge to Trump and from the damaging contents of the emails. These show that party bureaucrats sought to rig theprimaries to make sure Clinton’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, lost.
To underscore the intended effect of the Guardian’s new claims, Harding even throws in a casual and unsubstantiated reference to “Russians” joining Manafort in supposedly meeting Assange.
The emotional impact ofThe Guardian is to suggest that Assange is responsible for four years or more of Trump rule. But more significantly, it bolsters the otherwise risible claim that Assange is not a publisher – and thereby entitled to the protections of a free press, as enjoyed by The Guardian or The New York Times – but the head of an organization engaged in espionage for a foreign power.
The intention is to deeply discredit Assange, and by extension the Wikileaks organization, in the eyes of right-thinking liberals. That, in turn, will make it much easier to silence Assange and the vital cause he represents: the use of new media to hold to account the old, corporate media and political elites through the imposition of far greater transparency.
The Guardian story will prepare public opinion for the moment when Ecuador’s rightwing government under President Lenin Moreno forces Assange out of the embassy, having already withdrawn most of his rights to use digital media.
It will soften opposition when the UK moves to arrest Assange on self-serving bail violation chargesand extradites him to the US. And it will pave the way for the US legal system to lock Assange up for a very long time.
For the best part of a decade, any claims by Assange’s supporters that avoiding this fate was the reason Assange originally sought asylum in the embassy was ridiculed by corporate journalists, not least at the Guardian.
Even when a United Nations panel of experts in international law ruled in 2016 that Assange was being arbitrarily – and unlawfully – detained by the UK, Guardian writers led efforts to discredit the UN report. Seehereand here.
Now Assange and his supporters have been proved right once again. An administrative error this month revealed that the US justice department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange.
The problem forThe Guardian, which should have been obvious to its editors from the outset, is that any visits by Manafort would be easily verifiable without relying on unnamed “sources”.
Glenn Greenwald is far from alone innotingthat London is possibly the most surveilled city in the world, with CCTV cameras everywhere. The environs of the Ecuadorian embassy are monitored especially heavily, with continuous filming by the UK and Ecuadorian authorities and most likely by the US and other actors with an interest in Assange’s fate.
The idea that Manafort or “Russians” could have wandered into the embassy to meet Assange even once without their trail, entry and meeting being intimately scrutinized and recorded is simply preposterous.
According to Greenwald: “If Paul Manafort … visited Assange at the Embassy, there would be ample amounts of video and other photographic proof demonstrating that this happened. The Guardian provides none of that.”
Former British ambassador Craig Murray also points out the extensive security checks insisted on by the embassy to which any visitor to Assange must submit. Any visits by Manafort would have been logged.
In fact, The Guardianobtained the embassy’s logs in May, and has never made any mention of either Manafort or “Russians” being identified in them. It did not refer to the logs in its latest story.
The problem with this latest fabrication is that [Ecuador’s President] Moreno had already released the visitor logs to the Mueller inquiry. Neither Manafort nor these “Russians” are in the visitor logs … What possible motive would the Ecuadorean government have for facilitating secret unrecorded visits by Paul Manafort? Furthermore it is impossible that the intelligence agency – who were in charge of the security – would not know the identity of these alleged “Russians”.
It is worth noting it should be vitally important for a serious publication like The Guardian to ensure its claims are unassailably true – both because Assange’s personal fate rests on their veracity, and because, even more importantly, a fundamental right, the freedom of the press, is at stake.
Given this, one would have expected The Guardian’s editors to have insisted on the most stringent checks imaginable before going to press with Harding’s story. At a very minimum, they should have sought out a response from Assange and Manafort before publication. Neither precaution was taken.
I worked for The Guardian for a number of years, and know well the layers of checks that any highly sensitive story has to go through before publication. In that lengthy process, a variety of commissioning editors, lawyers, backbench editors and the editor herself, Kath Viner, would normally insist on cuts to anything that could not be rigorously defended and corroborated.
And yet this piece seems to have been casually waved through, given a green light even though its profound shortcomings were evident to a range of well-placed analysts and journalists from the outset.
That at the very least hints that The Guardian thought they had “insurance” on this story. And the only people who could have promised that kind of insurance are the security and intelligence services – presumably of Britain, the United States and / or Ecuador.
It appears The Guardian has simply taken this story, provided by spooks, at face value. Even if it later turns out that Manafort did visit Assange, The Guardian clearly had no compelling evidence for its claims when it published them. That is profoundly irresponsible journalism – fake news – that should be of the gravest concern to readers.
A Pattern, Not an Aberration
Despite all this, even analysts critical of The Guardian’s behavior have shown a glaring failure to understand that its latest coverage represents not an aberration by the paper but decisively fits with a pattern.
Glenn Greenwald, who once had an influential column in The Guardian until an apparent, though unacknowledged, falling out with his employer over the Edward Snowden revelations, wrote a series of baffling observations about The Guardian’s latest story.
First, hesuggested it was simply evidence of The Guardian’s long-standing (and well-documented) hostility towards Assange.
“The Guardian, an otherwise solid and reliable paper, has such a pervasive and unprofessionally personal hatred for Julian Assange that it has frequently dispensed with all journalistic standards in order to malign him.”
It was also apparently evidence of the paper’s clickbait tendencies:
“They [Guardian editors] knew that publishing this story would cause partisan warriors to excitedly spread the story, and that cable news outlets would hyperventilate over it, and that they’d reap the rewards regardless of whether the story turned out to be true or false.”
And finally, in a bizarre tweet, Greenwald opined, “I hope the story [maligning Assange] turns out true” – apparently because maintenance of The Guardian’s reputation is more important than Assange’s fate and the right of journalists to dig up embarrassing secrets without fear of being imprisoned.
What this misses is that The Guardian’s attacks on Assange are not exceptional or motivated solely by personal animosity. They are entirely predictable and systematic. Rather than being the reason for The Guardian violating basic journalistic standards and ethics, the paper’s hatred of Assange is a symptom of a deeper malaise in The Guardian and the wider corporate media.
Even aside from its decade-long campaign against Assange, The Guardian is far from “solid and reliable”, as Greenwald claims. It has been at the forefront of the relentless, and unhinged, attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for prioritizing the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s right to continue its belligerent occupation. Over the past three years, The Guardian has injected credibility into the Israel lobby’s desperate efforts to tar Corbyn as an anti-semite. See here, here and here.
Similarly, The Guardian worked tirelessly to promote Clinton and undermine Sanders in the 2016 Democratic nomination process – another reason the paper has been so assiduous in promoting the idea that Assange, aided by Russia, was determined to promote Trump over Clinton for the presidency.
The Guardian’s coverage of Latin America, especially of populist leftwing governments that have rebelled against traditional and oppressive U.S. hegemony in the region, has long grated with analysts and experts. Its especial venom has been reserved for leftwing figures like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, democratically elected but official enemies of the U.S., rather than the region’s rightwing authoritarians beloved of Washington.
The Guardian has been vocal in the so-called “fake news” hysteria, decrying the influence of social media, the only place where leftwing dissidents have managed to find a small foothold to promote their politics and counter the corporate media narrative.
The Guardian has painted social media chiefly as a platform overrun by Russian trolls, arguing that this should justify ever-tighter restrictions that have so far curbed critical voices of the dissident left more than the right.
Heroes of the Neoliberal Order
Equally, The Guardian has made clear who its true heroes are. Certainly not Corbyn or Assange, who threaten to disrupt the entrenched neoliberal order that is hurtling us towards climate breakdown and economic collapse.
Its pages, however, are readily available to the latest effort to prop up the status quo from Tony Blair, the man who led Britain, on false pretenses, into the largest crime against humanity in living memory – the attack on Iraq.
That “humanitarian intervention” cost the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and created a vacuum that destabilized much of the Middle East, sucked in Islamic jihadists like al-Qaeda and ISIS, and contributed to the migrant crisis in Europe that has fueled the resurgence of the far-right. None of that is discussed in The Guardian or considered grounds for disqualifying Blair as an arbiter of what is good for Britain and the world’s future.
The Guardian also has an especial soft spot for blogger Elliot Higgins, who, aided by The Guardian, has shot to unlikely prominence as a self-styled “weapons expert”. Like Luke Harding, Higgins invariably seems ready to echo whatever the British and American security services need verifying “independently”.
Higgins and his well-staffed website Bellingcat have taken on for themselves the role of arbiters of truth on many foreign affairs issues, taking a prominent role in advocating for narratives that promote U.S. and NATO hegemony while demonizing Russia, especially in highly contested arenas such as Syria.
That clear partisanship should be no surprise, given that Higgins now enjoys an “academic” position at, and funding from, the Atlantic Council: a high-level, Washington-based think-tank founded to drum up support for NATO and justify its imperialist agenda.
Improbably, The Guardian has adopted Higgins as the poster-boy for a supposed citizen journalism it has sought to undermine as “fake news” whenever it occurs on social media without the endorsement of state-backed organizations.
The truth is The Guardian has not erred in this latest story attacking Assange, or in its much longer-running campaign to vilify him. With this story, it has done what it regularly does when supposedly vital western foreign policy interests are at stake – it simply regurgitates an elite-serving, western narrative.
Its job is to shore up a consensus on the left for attacks on leading threats to the existing, neoliberal order: whether they are a platform like WikiLeaks promoting whistle-blowing against a corrupt western elite; or a politician like Corbyn seeking to break apart the status quo on the rapacious financial industries or Israel-Palestine; a radical leader like Hugo Chavez who threatened to overturn damaging and exploitative U.S. dominance of “America’s backyard”; or social media dissidents, who’ve started to chip away at the elite-friendly narratives of corporate media, including The Guardian itself.
The Guardian did not make a mistake in vilifying Assange without a shred of evidence. It did what it is designed to do.
This article originally appeared on jonathan-cook.net. Republished with permission from the author.
In South Lebanon, the Museum for Resistance, also known as the Mlita Museum, for the town in which it is located, is a wildly popular tourist attraction and a place where you can run into Arabs visiting from around the region.
In it, Hizbullah—the political party with an armed wing that, with Iranian assistance, emerged in response to the Israeli invasion of 1982—celebrates its military successes, displaying weapons captured from the occupation army and replicas of some of its military tunnels.
The museum enshrines an important realization for the country: that while conventional Arab armies failed to deter Israeli invasions, Lebanese and Palestinian volunteers succeeded in holding the mighty Israeli army at bay and have become the real defenders against Israeli attacks and occupation. As such, the museum offers testimony to the current nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The U.S. and other Western powers want to disarm Hizbullah while denying the Lebanese Army the weapons to deter Israel. In other words, they want to return Lebanon to its former state of weakness.
The problems this situation poses for Israel are often overlooked given its apparently clear strategic advantage.
Israel’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction is still being protected by Western countries from scrutiny or even criticism. The Obama administration guaranteed Israel a most generous financial assistance program for the next decade. Israeli’s 100-percent occupation of Palestine remains immune from U.N. or other international condemnation. Israeli citizens’ settlement buildingin Palestine territories—despite violating international law—has not caused a rift between Israel and either the European Union or the U.S.
Egypt, meanwhile, remains committed to the peace treaty with Israel and to security coordination with the occupation state, as does Jordan. And Israel does not fear an assault from any Arab state or a combination of Arab states. (Arab threats—largely rhetorical—have only been intended to pacify popular anger.)
But things are not as secure for Israel as they might seem.
The Resistance Persists
A century after the Balfour Declaration, the Arab-Israeli conflict has not ended. Early Zionist thinkers and leaders—influenced by racist European attitudes about the natives—never considered that the Palestinians would continue to resist Zionism for so long. This in itself is a big failure for Zionism as it defies the long-held belief that force is the only language that Arabs understand. At the same time, economic offers and political ploys have not deceived the Palestinians—or Arabs—into accepting the Israeli occupation project either.
The resistance is not only tenacious, its effectiveness reached a new level in 2000. That year, after an escalating pattern of resistance operations that began in 1982—first by secular (communist and Syrian nationalist) groups and later by Hizbullah—the Israeli occupation army was forced to withdraw from South Lebanon.
Israel’s biggest strategic loss came in 2006 during the Lebanese-Israeli War, when armed groups (not part of an Arab conventional army) resisted Israeli assaults and deterred a ground offensive against Arab territory. Unless you have studied the performance of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon between 1970 and 1982, it’s difficult to fathom how seriously this changed the power calculus of Lebanese and Palestinian resistance groups vis-à-vis Israel.
But the significance of that war—and most importantly on Arab perceptions of it—was obscured by Saudi regime propaganda intent on undermining the standing of any resistance, leftist or Islamist, Sunni or Shi`ite. The House of Saud began to promote sectarian hatred and agitation and emphasize the losses for the Arab side to downplay the precedent set by the war. (Examples of this are so pervasive it would be unfair to single out any one broadcaster or publication.)
During the invasions of Gaza, Israel failed again to advance or even to prevent primitive Hamas rockets from firing; all claims to the (fake) successes of the Iron Dome air defense system notwithstanding.
This is a marked contrast to previous confrontations. In 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon and the PLO’s resistance was disorganized and largely spontaneous. Four years later, in the face of the 1982 massive Israel invasion, the PLO failed again to formulate a joint resistance plan. Fighting was stiff in some cases, such as at the refugee camp`Ayn Al-Hilwi and the medieval-era Beuafort castle. And later at Khaldah, on the outskirts of Beirut, the PLO did implement a defense plan for Beirut (designed by West Point graduate Abu Al-Walid), which explains why Israel never dared to invade West Beirut until after the evacuation of PLO forces from Lebanon. Overall, however, the PLO resistance record pales in comparison to that of Hamas and Hizbullah, in Gaza and South Lebanon, respectively.
Former Psychological Advantage
Israeli strategy in dealing with the Arabs was based on massive, indiscriminate use of force and the promotion of the Israeli soldier as invincible and terrifying. This produced a psychological advantage that, from 1948 to 1967, sowed fear and resignation.
More recently, however, the image of the mighty Israeli soldier and a fearful Arab resistance has been reversed. In the 2006 war, Israeli soldiers in South Lebanon were terrified by Hizbullah fighters who prevented the enemy army from advancing one inch into Lebanese territory. I grew up in Lebanon in the 1960s and 1970s, when Israel used to bomb and invade at will. This no longer happens because Israel has come to fear Hizbullah.
Another problem for Israel is its once-vaunted intelligence, which has developed a reputation for clumsiness. The failed raid in Gaza (by an elite unit of the Israeli occupation army) is the most recent example. In 2010, Dubai police plastered the faces of top agents of Mossad, the intelligence agency, around the world in the wake of the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, a co-founder of the military wing of Hamas. Before that, in 1997, there was the botched assassination attempt on Khalid Misha`l’, the Doha-based former leader of Hamas, by Mossad agents.
In the 2006 war with Lebanon, Israel’s intelligence failures included the famous and (almost) comical kidnapping of a poor man whose only crime was that his name was Hasan Nasrallah, the same as that of the Hizbullah leader. Presumably, Mossad experts on the Arab world assumed there was only one Hasan Nasrallah in all of Lebanon.
Hizbullah and Hamas, meanwhile, have run intelligence operations that the PLO has rarely ever matched. Hizbullah’s 2012 kidnapping of Israeli soldiers is an example of careful preparations and reliable intelligence. Hizbullah and Hamas have special operatives monitoring the communications of the Israeli military. Hizbullah has its own Hebrew language school. PLO organizations, by contrast, had so few Hebrew speakers they often had to rely on Hebrew teachers from the Institute of Palestine Studies in Beirut to translate important documents.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is not about to end anytime soon. Trump’s “Deal of the Century” hinges on the belief that Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman can convince the Palestinians to give up their cause. This is a conflict that is unlikely to end in compromise, and the Israeli occupation state has made it clear that historical Palestine belongs to the Jewish people and that the Palestinians represent a mere nuisance on the land.
As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New “War on Terrorism” (2002), and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He also runs the popular blog The Angry Arab News Service.
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Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski Wins 2018 Sam Adams Award
Karen Kwiatkowski has won the 2018 Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award for trying to stop the “shock and awe” attack on Iraq. Kwiatkowski is featured in the film “Shock and Awe” to be shown at an awards ceremony Saturday.
By Ray McGovern
Dishonest (not “mistaken”) intelligence greased the skids for the widespread killing and maiming in the Middle East that began with the Cheney/Bush “Shock and Awe” attack on Iraq. The media reveled in the unconscionable (but lucrative) buzzword “shock-and-awe” for the initial attack. In retrospect, the real shock lies in the awe-some complicity of virtually all “mainstream media” in the leading false predicate for this war of aggression — weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Only one major media group, Knight Ridder, avoided the presstitution, so to speak. It faced into the headwinds blowing from the “acceptable” narrative, did the investigative spadework, and found patriotic insiders who told them the truth. Karen Kwiatkowski, who had a front-row seat at the Pentagon, was one key source for the intrepid Knight Ridder journalists. Karen tells us that her actual role is accurately portrayed by the professional actress in the Rob Reiner’s film “Shock and Awe.”
Other members of the Sam Adams Associates were involved as well, but we will leave it to them to share on Saturday evening how they helped Knight Ridder accurately depict the pre-war administration/intelligence/media fraud.
More recently, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper added a coda to pre-Iraq-War intelligence performance. Clapper was put in charge of imagery analysis before the Iraq war and was able to conceal the fact that there were were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In his memoir, Clapper writes that Vice President Cheney “was pushing” for imagery analysis “to find (emphasis in original) the WMD sites.”
For the record, none were found because there were none, although Clapper — “eager to help” — gave it the old college try. Clapper proceeds, in a matter-of-fact way, to blame not only pressure from the Cheney/Bush administration, but also “the intelligence officers, including me, who were so eager to help that we found what wasn’t really there.”
Regarding those Clapper-produced “artist renderings” of “mobile production facilities for biological agents”? Those trucks “were in fact used to pasteurize and transport milk,” Clapper admits nonchalantly. When challenged on all this while promoting his memoir at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, Clapper gave not the slightest hint that it occurred to him his performance was somewhat lacking.
Media: Consequential Malfeasance
As for the self-licking ice cream cone that “mainstream media” have become, and how they overlook little peccadillos like feeding at the government PR trough and helping Cheney and Bush attack Iraq, well — now, now — let’s not be nasty. Here’s how Jill Abramson, The New York Times Washington Bureau Chief from 2000 to 2003, while the Times acted as drum major for the war, lets Bob Woodward off the hook for his own abysmal investigative performance.
Reviewing Woodward’s recent book on the Trump White House, Abramson praises his “dogged investigative reporting,” noting that he has won two Pulitzer Prizes, and adds: “His work has been factually unassailable.” Then she (or perhaps an editor) adds in parenthesis: “(His judgment is certainly not perfect, and he has been self-critical about his belief, based on reporting before the Iraq War, that there were weapons of mass destruction.)”
Are we to believe that the Abramsons, Woodwards, et al. of the media elite simply missed the WMD deception? (Hundreds of insiders knew of it, and some were willing to share the truth with Knight Ridder and some other reporters.) Or did the media moguls simply hunker down and let themselves be co-opted into helping Cheney/Bush start a major war? The latter seems much more likely: and transparent attempts to cover up for one another, still, is particularly sad — and consequential. Having suffered no consequences (for example, in 2003 Abramson was promoted to Managing Editor of the NYT), the “mainstream media” appear just as likely to do a redux on Iran.
This is why there will be a premium on honest insider patriots, like Karen Kwiatkowski, to rise to the occasion and try to prevent the next war. Bring along your insider friends on Saturday; they need to know about Karen and about Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
Please do come and join us in congratulating Karen Kwiatkowski and the other SAAII members who also helped Knight Ridder get the story right. (Those others shall remain unnamed until Saturday.) And let insiders know this: they are not likely to hear about all this otherwise.
Samuel Alexander Adams (June 14, 1934 – October 10, 1988), known as Sam Adams, was an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He is best known for his role in discovering that during the mid-1960s American military intelligence had underestimated the number of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers.
Date: Saturday, December 8, 2018
Time: 6:30 PM Showing of film, “Shock and Awe” 8:00 PM Presentation 17th annual Sam Adams Award Ceremony will include remarks by Larry Wilkerson, 7th SAAII awardee (in 2009)
Place: The Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Road, NW, Washington, DC 20009
ALL WELCOME: Lots of space in main conference room
Judge Delays Decision Whether to Unseal Assange Criminal Complaint
A hearing was held in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday on a motion to make public the sealed U.S. charges against Julian Assange. Joe Lauria, editor of Consortium News, was in the courtroom and filed this report.
By Joe Lauria in Alexandria, Virginia Special to Consortium News
A decision whether to unseal U.S. government charges against Julian Assange was delayed for a week by Judge Leonie Brinkema in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Tuesday.
In her comments to the court, Judge Brinkema appeared to be siding with the government’s argument that there is no legal precedent for a judge to order the release of a criminal complaint or indictment in a case before an arrest is made.
However, Katie Townsend, a lawyer for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which filed an application to “unseal criminal prosecution of Julian Assange,” told the court that the government’s inadvertent revelation of charges against the WikiLeaks publisher should prompt the court to release the complaint.
The government says it mistakenly included a passage referring to Assange in a totally unrelated case. The passage was reportedthis month in the press and was read in full by Judge Brinkema in court. It says the government considered alternatives to sealing, but that any procedure “short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”
The paragraph goes on to say that the “complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”
As additional evidence that the government was pursuing WikiLeaks, Townsend also cited the Jan. 2017 intelligence “assessment” that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election in which WikiLeaks is blamed for playing a role; congressional testimony from former FBI Director James Comey that the bureau had an “intense focus” on WikiLeaks; then CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s claim that WikiLeaks was a “hostile, non-state intelligence service;” and the naming of WikiLeaks as “Organization 1” in the government’s indictment of Russian intelligence agents for allegedly interfering in the election.
Government Calls Charges ‘Speculation’
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg argued that the government has never said it was investigating Assange, only WikiLeaks and those leaking to it. He said further that it was “speculation” that there are already charges against Assange based on anonymous press sources, even though the mistakenly published paragraph clearly speaks of the “fact that Assange has been charged.”
Kromberg told the court that the government could neither confirm nor deny that the passage relates to Julian Assange, nor could confirm or deny that he has been charged because to do so would admit Assange’s status, which the state contends must remain secret.
Judge Brinkema, who called the case “interesting, to say the least,” agreed that it was an “assumption” and “hypothetical” that the WikiLeaks founder has already been charged. But she asked Kromberg in court what “compelling” rationale there was to keep Assange’s status secret after the government’s inadvertent release.
Kromberg said he could not discuss in public the specifics in this case regarding sealing.
Judge Brinkema then listed the general reasons why indictments and complaints remain sealed before an arrest is made: to prevent a suspect from fleeing, from destroying or tampering with evidence, from pressuring potential witnesses, from being prepared to harm arresting officers and also to protect against alerting other defendants that might be named in a complaint or indictment.
Assange, however, is purposely not fleeing from the Ecuador Embassy in London as he fears he will be arrested by British authorities and extradited to the United States. It is highly unlikely he is armed and could harm arresting officers, who could enter the sovereign territory of Ecuador only with that government’s permission. Assange could possibly have alleged evidence on a laptop and others could be named in the complaint.
The judge then asked Townsend to name any case in which a judge had ordered the government to release criminal charges before an arrest was made. Kromberg had argued that there were none. Townsend requested a few days to respond.
Judge Brinkema gave both parties a week to make further submissions to the court.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .
The Fate of Julian Assange: Chris Hedges Interviews Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria
On his program “On Contact,” journalist and author Chris Hedges interviews Joe Lauria, CN editor, on the moves to prosecute Julian Assange using the Espionage Act; the media’s cravenness and the latest on Assange’s condition in London.
National Exclusive: Former Sen. Barbara Boxer’s Son and California Powerbroker Found Bilking Indian Tribe
Darius Anderson and his business partner, Douglas Boxer, preyed upon Native American clients who were too intimidated by their political connections to seek recourse, writes investigative reporter Peter Byrne.
Judges Find Breach
of Contract and Trust
By Peter Byrne
Darius Anderson is one of California’s most powerful men. He promotes himself as a champion of liberal social causes, a philanthropist, a public servant, a man of integrity who cares about his community—especially racial minorities.
That image has not survived judicial scrutiny. A panel of arbitration judges has found that a company controlled by Anderson and his partner, Douglas Boxer, the son of former Senator Barbara Boxer, defrauded its Native American clients in a Bay Area casino deal. The partners convinced the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria to buy undevelopable swamp land in which they themselves held a large interest. They then made a secret deal with a Las Vegas gambling corporation in which they benefited at the Graton tribe’s expense.
The two-month long judicial proceeding took place behind closed doors at the San Francisco office of JAMS, a high-profile group of legal mediators formerly known as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services. A final binding arbitration award issued in April by the judging panel was confirmed by Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer on June 1. That outcome has drawn almost no publicity. The only media to report on the findings of fraud against Anderson and Boxer is the North Bay Bohemian, a local alternative weekly newspaper.
For decades Anderson has advised and raised campaign funds for prominent state Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Jerry Brown, governor of the west coast state.
Another of his high-profile clients is Barbara Boxer, the longtime U.S. senator from California who retired in 2017. Her son Douglas partnered with Anderson in what judges found to be acts of fraud and deception against the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria that began after Sen. Boxer pushed through legislation restoring the tribe’s sovereignty and granting it the right to run a casino.
The case raises comparisons with the 2005 Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal, in which powerful consultants charged exorbitant fees to Indian clients seeking to develop casinos on their reservations. As such it adds another installment to the history of white men breaching trust with Native Americans for economic gain that began with European settlement of this continent. This case has a happier ending than is usual.
Anderson, 53, oversees a restaurant and media empire in Napa and Sonoma Counties, 40 miles north of San Francisco. He owns a culinary school called Ramekins and he is the managing member and chairman of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and its affiliate publications,which includes most of the newsprint media in the two-county region. In September, the Press Democrat reported a 900-word story about the arbitration findings that portrayed the tribe and Anderson as having settled a contractual “dispute”—the “fraud” word was not mentioned and the details of the deceptions were not exposed.
Anderson is much more that a restaurateur and newspaper publisher. His California-based lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, advertises that it generates “billions of dollars in work for our clients” by navigating their deals through mazes of local, state, and federal government bureaucracies. Another of his companies, Kenwood Investments, is developing upscale housing and yacht havens on Treasure Island, a fabulously valuable island in the San Francisco bay built in 1939 as a World’s Fair site.
The business name that is key to this story is Kenwood Investments No. 2. Three retired state judges in the arbitration process declared in April that Anderson and his partners in “Kenwood No. 2” defrauded theFederated Indians of Graton Rancheria of millions of dollars between 2002–03 and committed many acts of deception. They ordered Anderson’s investment firm to pay three quarters of a million dollars to the tribe to cover its lawyer’s fees and arbitration costs.
According to the judges, Anderson breached his consulting contract with the tribe, which now owns the Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park. The judges found that Anderson and his associates “fraudulently induced” and “breached” an agreement to assist the tribe in developing a Las Vegas-style casino business.
The ruling, by retired Superior Court judges William Cahill, Read Ambler and Richard A. Kramer, concludes a long legal battle that was instigated not by the wronged party, but by Anderson, as he sought to further enrich his business at the tribe’s expense.
In a settlement arrangement, Kenwood No. 2 agreed not to appeal the judges’ findings. Anderson’s firm will pay less than the dollar amount of the award, says Joel Zeldin, the tribe’s arbitration counsel. There are no charges of criminal fraud pending against Kenwood No. 2, but the three judges, one of whom was chosen by Anderson’s firm, did their best to restore justice: “Even if the Tribe was willing to overlook Kenwood No. 2’s unethical behavior, the courts and these arbitrators will not.”
Summary of Violations
The 53-page arbitration report details how Darius Anderson and the senator’s son, Douglas Boxer, harmed the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria over the course of several years. In summing up their findings, the judges’ panel found that Anderson and Boxer had violated their duty to be loyal to the tribe in the following ways:
• Anderson and Boxer represented that Kenwood No. 2 had experience and abilities that it in fact lacked.
• Kenwood No. 2 breached its contract when it bought an option on wetlands without telling the tribe, and then promoted the land to the tribe for the casino site despite its unsuitability for development.
• Anderson and Boxer sent out bid solicitations for a casino manager that benefited Kenwood No. 2 at the expense of the tribe and without telling the tribe of the existence of the “requests for proposals” or RFPs.
• They rejected a proposal that was the most favorable to the tribe without telling the tribe or informing it of that bidder’s reservations about irregularities in the contractual terms proposed by Kenwood No. 2.
• They entered into undisclosed consulting agreements “to the detriment” of the tribe, some of which involved conflicts of interest.
• “Despite causing major problems and providing virtually no effective assistance to the Tribe,” Anderson claimed that it was the tribe that had breached the consulting agreement with Kenwood No. 2. Anderson’s pursuit of his “unmerited” claim against the tribe caused it to spend significant amounts of money and to “suffer business risks and distractions.”
The judges ordered Kenwood No. 2 to pay the tribe’s attorney fees and costs of $725,657.48, and to receive nothing for itself.
Anderson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Boxer was involved as a lobbyist for Platinum Advisors and as Anderson’s partner in Kenwood Investments No. 2. His mother, the now-retired U.S. senator, in 2000, wrote federal legislation that restored the national sovereignty of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and authorized the tribe to establish a casino business.
In early 2002, Anderson and Boxer approached the tribe’s chairman, Greg Sarris, a novelist and professor of creative writing and Native American studies at Sonoma State University. They proposed that the newly empowered tribal nation hire Platinum Advisors to help it acquire reservation land and start a business to make it self-sufficient. Anderson and Boxer told Sarris that Platinum Advisors had “significant real estate development experience and connections with local, state and federal politicians,” according to the arbitration award. They proffered a platform of consulting services for a monthly retainer of $1,000, with payment deferred and contingent upon success.
Sarris trusted Boxer because the lobbyist’s mother had sponsored the legislation that re-established the tribe’s sovereignty. After Anderson presented a promise-filled PowerPoint to the tribal council, it voted to hire Platinum Advisors, ultimately paying it $1.2 million.
Fifteen years later, arbitrators declared that Anderson and Boxer had breached their contract to deliver adequate professional services in the tribe’s interest, damaging the casino project’s prospects. According to the arbitration document, the Graton Rancheria was afraid to expose these actions when it discovered what Anderson was doing in 2003, fearing political retaliation by the consultants.
The story only came to light because in November 2013, Anderson demanded that the Graton Rancheria pay Kenwood No. 2 a percentage of the projected revenue from its recently opened casino. Anderson insisted that the tribe pay his firm $43 million; he threatened to compel arbitration if it refused.
The tribe refused. It sued Kenwood No. 2 in state superior court, claiming that its sovereign immunity prohibited Anderson from compelling arbitration of his claim.
In November 2015, the court ruled that the tribe had waived its sovereign immunity defense in its contract with Anderson. In 2017, that judgment was affirmed by the appellate court, and the JAMS arbitration commenced.
Anderson claimed 2.5 percent of the Graton Resort & Casino’s net revenue for the first seven years of its operation, despite the fact that after 2005, the tribe had ceased doing business with his company. Insisting that the Graton Rancheria had “unjustly enriched” itself at the expense of his firm, Anderson demanded that it pay his attorney fees, too.
But it was the tribe, not Anderson, that had been wronged, the retired judges ruled. After months of sworn testimony, the panel ordered Kenwood No. 2 to pay the tribe’s attorney fees because it was Kenwood No. 2 that had breached the consulting contract, and Anderson’s claims to the contrary “lacked merit.”
The two trials generated thousands of pages of testimony, depositions and exhibits. The court record of the arbitration award was partly redacted and relabeled at Anderson’s request, according to Zeldin, the tribe’s arbitration counsel.
Anderson’s and Boxer’s names are replaced by “Person A” and “Person B,” respectively. “Platinum Advisors” is replaced with “Company 1.” “Kenwood No. 2” replaced “Kenwood.” The names of politicians and descriptions of their actions are blacked out. But who they are and what they did is clear from the narrative context and from contemporaneous news reports.
How It Began
In March 2002, the Graton Rancheria signed a contract with Platinum Advisors as its “exclusive agent” to provide it with “strategic advice and consultation” and to develop “political visibility.” The contract granted Platinum a right of first refusal to “partner with the tribe in any business opportunity it pursued.” The idea was to attract investors.
From the get-go, Boxer worked to convince the tribe how “‘much of a home run a casino would be’ rather than organic food processing, grape growing, strip mall, or senior assisted living facility,” according to the arbitration award. It did not take much convincing. Casinos are famous magnets for cash. Even as Anderson and Boxer worked with the tribe on a public relations campaign to further a casino project, they were making secret deals to benefit themselves, the arbitrators found.
According to a declaration filed by Anderson in 2015, he, Boxer, Jay Wallace of Platinum Advisors and Stuart Sunshine, a San Francisco city official, created Kenwood Investments No. 2 LLC in January 2003.
The arbitration judges ruled that Anderson’s new company shadowed Platinum Advisors’ tribal consulting activities, while serving a hidden agenda to make money for its principals—at the tribe’s expense.
Without informing Sarris or the tribe, Anderson and Boxer struck a deal to buy 1,736 acres of tidal wetlands near Highway 37, a major road connecting San Francisco to the nearby city of Oakland.
Kenwood No. 2 paid $100,000 for an option to purchase the swampy property, eventually billing the tribe $750,000 for it.
As Kenwood No. 2 was secretly securing the option, Platinum Advisors was advising the tribe to select the Highway 37 site for its casino, even though it was a politically impossible place to pour acres of concrete.
“The site was part of 50,000 acres of tidal wetlands that conservationists had been trying to protect and restore since the 1970s,” noted the arbitration judges, who were incredulous that Anderson had suggested it. The attempt to locate the casino on the wetlands site proved to be a public relations and monetary disaster for the tribe.
As Anderson and Boxer were negotiating to buy the swampy land in late 2002, they were also negotiating casino-management deals with several Las Vegas–based casino operators, including Station Casinos, Harrah’s, Maloof and MGM, without telling the tribe.
In February 2003, Anderson sent a request for proposals to potential casino operators. The proposal represented Kenwood No. 2 as the “exclusive development partner” and “financial advisor” for the tribe. The RFP stated that Kenwood No. 2 would evaluate the bid proposals and select the casino manager for the tribe.
Kenwood No. 2 had no contractual relationship with the Graton Rancheria when it issued the RFP. The tribe’s contract was with Platinum Advisors.
According to the arbitration award, “the evidence established that the Tribe was unaware that Kenwood No. 2 had sent an RFP to operators and had not approved the contents of the RFP drafted by Kenwood No. 2.”
Strange Bidding Terms
The trial revealed that Anderson’s RFP instructed potential casino operators to bid their services on the basis of several unusual assumptions:
• The operator would commit to buying Kenwood No. 2’s option to purchase the Highway 37 land and then buy the land from the seller on behalf of Kenwood No. 2, which would be the “titleholder.” The RFP assumed that the casino would be built on the Highway 37 site controlled by Kenwood No. 2 and that there were no other possibilities.
• The operators could charge the tribe 20 percent of the casino’s net revenues and were to “assume a management fee to Kenwood No. 2 of 10 percent of net gaming revenues.”
• The operators would pay Kenwood No. 2 “development fees” of $2.5 million up front to purchase the option on the Highway 37 site, and another $2.5 million when the tribe took over the site—$5 million total.
• “Lastly, operators were required to pay Kenwood No. 2 ‘pre-development fees’ of $8.4 million ($200,000 per month) for advisory and consulting services.”
The operators were not required by the RFP to make upfront cash payments to the tribe, or to provide any specific amounts of money for the tribe’s maintenance costs (i.e., its ability to maintain its existence until the casino began generating revenue).
Anderson received and evaluated four responses to the RFP, which he did not share with the tribe. Notably, Harrah’s proposed to take up to 24 percent of the net gaming revenue as its management fee. Improving on the terms of the RFP itself, Harrah’s offered to pay $100,000 a month to the tribe for its operating expenses, along with a $4 million pre-development fee. Harrah’s also offered to donate $100,000 per year to set up an educational scholarship fund for tribal members. And it offered to make a one-time $25 million “quality of life” loan to address tribal citizen’s needs for housing and medical care.
Harrah’s declined to pay a percentage of net revenues to Kenwood No. 2, although it offered to pay Anderson $50,000 a month in consulting fees, if the tribe approved of the arrangement. Harrah’s pointed out that such an arrangement with a consultant was not a normal business practice; it would have to be approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Harrah’s expressed concern about the legitimacy of Anderson’s claim to be representing the tribe’s interests. It asked to be put directly in touch with the tribal council before proceeding further. Anderson rejected Harrah’s proposal without consulting with Sarris and the tribal council or informing them of the proposal’s existence.
Watch Peter B. Collins interview Peter Byrne on Boxer, Anderson fraud (Article continues below):
A Better Deal—For Anderson
Station Casinos’ response to the RFP was far more favorable toward Anderson. It suggested that Kenwood No. 2 and Station Casinos partner to manage the casino. It proposed divvying up 30 percent of the casino revenues—20 percent to Anderson’s firm, 80 percent to Station.
The Las Vegas–based corporation offered to pay Anderson $10 million cash up front and $15,000 a month for consulting services. It offered $100,000 a month for tribal operations, but it did not offer the tribe any pre-development fees, scholarships or loans.
On March 7, 2003 Anderson and Boxer asked the Graton Rancheria to assign the Platinum Advisors contract to Kenwood No. 2, and claimed it would not change the terms of the agreement.
But the assignation did change the terms of the agreement. The new arrangement gave Kenwood No. 2 new authority to act as the tribe’s exclusive agent. Kenwood No. 2 was allowed to negotiate a cut of the casino operator’s management fee for itself. And, importantly, the tribe agreed to waive its sovereign-immunity defense in the case of a contract dispute—a concession it later regretted.
Anderson and Boxer had been negotiating with gaming corporations since the fall of 2002. They first told Sarris and the tribe that they had issued RFPs on March 11, 2003.
Brian Campbell, a tribal member doing legal work for the tribe, got wind of the RFP and asked Boxer for a copy. Boxer gave Campbell a copy but did not tell him about the responses that had been received.
Boxer later testified under oath that he had given drafts of the RFP to the tribe before it was sent out in 2002. The tribe’s witnesses testified that Boxer did not do that. Campbell testified that he was surprised that Anderson had asked for 10 percent of the gaming revenues and $5 million in upfront fees in the RFP.
On March 14, 2003, Anderson told the tribal council about the existence of RFP responses. He did not disclose Harrah’s offer to the tribe of tens of millions of dollars in cash.
Anderson told the tribe that Station Casinos had made the best proposal for “superior overall economics.”
Even as members expressed outrage at Anderson’s self-dealing behavior, the tribal council accepted his recommendation that Station Casinos be selected as its casino operator.
Time to Hire Lawyers
Suspecting that Anderson was more motivated to benefit himself than the tribe, the Graton Rancheria hired attorneys from California Indian Legal Services to watch over its interests. These lawyers noted that it was a conflict of interest for Anderson to negotiate with Station on behalf of the tribe while he was also negotiating with Station on his own behalf for a cut of the management fees. Anderson agreed that he would not negotiate a separate deal.
On April 22, 2003, the tribe signed the revised agreement with Kenwood No. 2. It provided that Anderson’s company would receive 4 percent of the net gaming revenues for seven years (later reduced to 2.5 percent). Anderson agreed to donate $25,000 annually to the UCLA College of Indian Law Program. (UCLA declined to confirm if the donations were made.)
The next day, according to trial exhibits, Anderson secretly made a separate consulting agreement with Station Casinos, despite his promise that he wouldn’t.
Kenwood No. 2 contracted to assist Station Casinos “maintain its relationship” with the tribe. Station Casinos agreed to pay Anderson $20,000 per month and it bought the option on the Highway 37 site for $750,000, netting Kenwood No. 2 a $650,000 profit. (The tribe later reimbursed Station for the option payment).
Station Casinos agreed to pay Anderson a total of $9.5 million for achieving various “milestones” as it helped the tribe to navigate the bureaucracy of getting its casino up and running.
Anderson did not tell the tribe about his side deal with Station Casinos. “The evidence indicates that Kenwood No. 2 intentionally kept information regarding the Station/Kenwood No. 2 agreement secret from the Tribe,” the arbitrators found. “[Exhibit] 490 [Douglas Boxer] notation: ‘don’t tell Sarris: negotiation.’”
Boxer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In fact, the tribe did not learn of the secret side agreement’s existence until June 2003, when Station Casinos included a copy of the side agreement in the paperwork accompanying its negotiations with the tribe, the arbitrators found. Station Casinos declined to comment.
Picking on the Wrong Wetland
On the same day they signed the side agreement, Station Casinos and Anderson announced that the Graton Rancheria planned to develop the Highway 37 site for a casino. A coalition of environmental groups that supported the Bay Delta Restoration Plan to restore local wetland habitats enlisted local, state and federally elected officials to vehemently oppose erecting the casino.
The tribe’s attempt to “appease these groups by offering to restore hundreds of acres of wetlands on the property” was a non-starter. After Diane Feinstein, a U.S. senator from California, “threatened to redraft the Tribe’s restoration language to obstruct the Tribe’s ability to open a casino anywhere,” the Graton Rancheria backed down and nixed the wetlands as a possibility.
The tribe ended up paying for and donating the Highway 37 wetlands to the Sonoma County Land Trust, which has restored it. The wetlands debacle ended up costing the tribe about $5 million, which included paying for the unusable land and for Kenwood No. 2’s profit on the land-purchase option.
Without Anderson’s assistance, Sarris and the tribe went looking for an alternative site to build their casino, and eventually bought 270 acres in Rohnert Park for $100 million, which it borrowed from Station Casinos. The tribe had little or no contact with Anderson and Boxer after 2005, when it stopped using their services.
Boxer testified that Kenwood No. 2 did significant work for the tribe prior to 2006. The trial record reports that in 2004 Boxer “‘killed’ a bill” in the state assembly that would “require gaming tribes to negotiate with local governments to mitigate the impact of casinos.”
Boxer said at trial that he had designed publicity and lobbying campaigns for the tribe; helped it to create a financial budget and to find office space; and “assisted tribal members in securing personal loans.”
The arbitrators determined that lobbying on the tribe’s behalf violated California law because Kenwood No. 2 was not a registered lobbying firm. Regardless, the judges found that Anderson and Boxer did not materially assist the tribe in jumping through the complicated governmental, environmental and financing procedures necessary to obtain a gaming compact and open the casino.
Sarris testified that the tribe felt that “Kenwood No. 2 was providing little or no value . . . and the Tribe wanted to sever its relationship with [Anderson and Boxer] but was afraid that if it did so, [they] might retaliate and use [their] political connections against the Tribe.”
The tribe estimated that it ended up paying Kenwood No. 2 $10,000 an hour for the services it did receive before the contract ended.
Nonetheless, the tribe invited Anderson and Boxer to attend the opening party for the Graton Resort and Casino on Nov. 5, 2014. That same day, Anderson demanded that the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria wire a payment of $43 million to his bank account.
A version of this story was first published on Bohemian.com as “Graton Expectations.”
Northern California-based journalist Peter Byrne combines investigative reporting with science writing. In 2017, Peter’s 11-part series in the Point Reyes Light “Busted: Breast Cancer Money and the Media” won the top science writing award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received national, regional, and local recognition for investigative work, writing style, and in-depth profiles of politicians and scientists. Peter reports on terrorism and its twin, counter terrorism, from epicenters of violence such as Mosul, Iraq and Orange County, California. He has written highly regarded books on quantum physics and writes for many publications, including Scientific American, New Scientist, Quanta, American Consequences, Mother Jones, and the North Bay Bohemian. He can be found at www.peterbyrne.info.
Et Tu, RT? Amplifying Western Disinformation on Rwanda
The great lie about the Rwandan bloodbath opened the door to a far larger genocide in Congo and helped justify U.S. military interventions in Libya and Syria, argues Ann Garrison.
By Ann Garrison Black Agenda Report
During a recent campaign event, Florida Senator Bill Nelson said, “That story of Rwanda is very instructive to us because when a place gets so tribal that the two tribes won’t have anything to do with each other, and that jealousy turns into hate—we saw what happened to the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda, it turned into a genocide. A million people hacked to death within a few months. And we have got to watch what’s happening here.”
That got a lot of headlines even though U.S. ethnicity is binary only if seen as white vs. everybody else. Whatever Sen. Nelson meant, those who do see it that way have certainly gained prominence since Trump took the White House.
That was a newly minted reference to the Rwandan genocide in U.S. discourse, however. Rwanda is most often remembered in urgent calls for “humanitarian intervention,” a.k.a. war, to stop another genocide. We’re told that the U.S. failed to stop Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, so we’re now obliged to “intervene” anytime and anywhere another genocide is underway. That’s why, we’re falselytold, the U.S. and its NATO allies had to bomb Libya into ongoing chaos in 2011. That’s why Lockheed Martin had to step up production of cruise missiles to drop on Syria. That’s why Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, both 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, became initial co-sponsors of an Orwellian bill to “enhance” our government’s ability to “prevent genocide and mass atrocities” with military force: Senate Bill 1158, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018.
More soberly, given the lies we’ve all been told in order to start wars, doesn’t it seem likely that this story—that the U.S. failed to stop the Rwandan genocide—is one more? Not that the genocide didn’t happen and not that it wasn’t a terrible tragedy, but the story we were all told and Bill Clinton’s crocodile tears about his “worst mistake” are a lie. In fact, the U.S. and United Kingdom backed Gen. Paul Kagame’s invasion of Rwanda from Uganda on Oct. 1, 1990, and prevented a United Nations intervention until he and his army had massacred their way to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, to seize power on July 4, 1994.
Just over three weeks later, on July 28, The New York Times reported that the “U.S. Is Considering a Base in Rwanda for Relief Teams.” Kagame has been a key U.S. ally and “military partner” ever since. He not only collaborated with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) but also invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo, left millions dead, and thus created new opportunities for U.S. mining corporations.
“The institutionalization of the ‘Rwandan genocide’ has been the remarkable achievement of a propaganda system sustained by both public and private power, with the crucial assistance of a related cadre of intellectual enforcers. The favorite weapons of these enforcers are reciting the institutionalized untruths as gospel while portraying critics of the standard model as ‘genocide deniers,’ dark figures who lurk at the same moral level as child molesters, to be condemned and even outlawed.”
More recently, former Agence France Presse and Radio France International journalist Judi Rever broke down the simple story of Tutsi victims, Hutu perpetrators in her book “In Praise of Blood: Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front.” Here’s some of what she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after the book’s publication:
Judi Rever: He [Kagame] did not stop the genocide because at the same time that ethnic Tutsis were being killed in Hutu-controlled zones, his Tutsi troops were killing with equal zeal and organization. And in every zone that the Rwandan Patriotic Front and its army entered, they killed massively and in an organized way.
CBC: Killed Hutus?
Judi Rever: Killed Hutus. They also fueled the genocide against the Tutsis. They infiltrated the Hutu militias very successfully, and they baited the violence. They egged on the violence, but they also—some of their commandos—participated in the slaughter of Tutsis at roadblocks.
Kagame knowingly ordered and encouraged Tutsi massacres to build a storyline that would justify his Tutsi minority dictatorship after he’d seized power and control of the country’s electoral apparatus. Had he proceeded to real elections, as mandated by the Arusha Accords signed to end the war, the Hutu majority would have elected a Hutu president. Former Rwandan Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ndagijimana tells the same story from a different standpoint in “How Paul Kagame Deliberately Sacrificed the Tutsi.” Most of these victims were poor Tutsis who had been left behind when the wealthy and aristocratic Tutsis fled to Uganda during the Hutu Peasant Revolution of 1959-1961.
Rever’s conclusions are based on years of research and interviews, many of them with RPF troops who were tormented by memories of what they had done and felt compelled to confess. Her book also includes accounts of how she, her husband, and even her children were threatened while she was researching it, and how Belgian security operatives accompanied her everywhere during a research trip to Brussels to interview political exiles and refugees.
In an email released by WikiLeaks, a Stratfor intelligence analyst said that “Rwandans are cold ass mofos“ and detailed Rwandan operatives’ transnational assassinations and assassination attempts. Their targets are almost always high-profile figures who, like Rever, challenge the story of Tutsi victims and Hutu perpetrators that is so essential to Kagame’s survival and international stature.
Despite all this, the propaganda has been so effective that the standard story of Tutsi victims, Hutu perpetrators, and Bill Clinton’s failure remains all but unassailable in mainstream media. It’s in the Wikipedia, where a host of “edit alerts” assure that any attempt to change it starts a tireless “editing war” that Wikipedia moderators will finally shut down with no changes made. It’s at the heart of former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s interventionist bible, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.” It’s in Obama’s 2011 Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities and “Mass Atrocities Response Operations: A Military Handbook,” which was produced by the Pentagon and Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights with help from Pierre Omidyar’s Humanity United Foundation. And it’s in the template of every Reuters and AP newswire that ever touches on the subject.
I was nevertheless surprised when RT repeated the standard propaganda as well. Mightn’t one expect RT to dig a little deeper into a narrative used to justify the U.S. war in Syria among others? RT asked me to comment on a news story about the recent appeal of a French court’s ruling that French soldiers were not criminally complicit for failing to protect Tutsis massacred at Bisisero, Rwanda, in 1994. I agreed, so they called me on Skype, but the host and I proceeded to frustrate one another, and most of what I said was left on the cutting room floor. CIUT 89.5 FM-Toronto host and former ICTR investigator Phil Taylor sent me a consolation note saying, “I felt for you, Ann. I saw the item in real time and slapped my forehead. The cutting was done with shears.”
Basic journalistic ethnics and not wanting to be misrepresented compelled me to write about why this interview turned into such a hot mess after beginning with the usual false recitation:
“The genocide in Rwanda lasted just over three months and left nearly a million people dead. . . . The genocide was committed mainly by the Hutu government and its backers against the ethnic minority Tutsi tribe. Allegations of the French government’s support for the Hutus, who carried out most of the slaughter in the genocide, have been rough on the French government’s relations with the Rwandan government for years. But the French, although they admit that they’ve made mistakes, they say they have no complicity in the genocide that took place there.”
I told RT that the context of the 1994 Bisesero massacre was a four-year war that began on Oct. 1, 1990, when a detachment of the Ugandan Army led by then General, now President, Paul Kagame invaded Rwanda from Uganda. I said that those Ugandan troops were Rwandan Tutsis or the children of Rwandan Tutsis who had fled to Uganda between 1959 and 1961, when the Hutu majority finally liberated themselves from centuries-long domination by the Tutsi minority.
I said that focusing on this single tragic incident, the Tutsi massacres at Bisesero, imposed the propaganda narrative about the Rwandan genocide on their story.
I said that France’s Operation Turquoise had created a humanitarian corridor for civilians fleeing to Congo in terror of Kagame’s advancing army, so it was a distortion to discredit the French troops over this one incident in which they were accused of failing to act even though it wasn’t clear they had a mandate. (UN Security Council Resolution 929 (1994) gave the operation the aim of “contributing, in an impartial way, to the security and protection of displaced persons, refugees, and civilians at risk in Rwanda.”)
I considered quoting Ed Herman, David Peterson, and Judi Rever, but ran out of time. That was more complexity than RT appeared to want added totheir news story. They had already built it on the widely received account of what happened in Rwanda before calling me. Having produced radio news, I know the show must go on at the scheduled hour even if it could be improved. Had they nevertheless considered that there might be something wrong with their premises? I’m only encouraging them to review this Western narrative as they do so many others.
This article was originally published on Black Agenda Report.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prizefor her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.