Breakdown of the Clinton Money Machine

As troubling as Donald Trump’s election may be, it carries greater hope for some positive good than the alternative of Hillary Clinton, who represented a corrupt, money-churning machine, writes John Chuckman.

By John Chuckman

Brushing away the extreme claims and rhetoric of much election analysis, there are some observations, which deserve attention and which unfortunately mostly provide hard lessons (and not a lot of encouragement for people who hold to principles of democracy, enlightenment and progressivity).

The election demonstrated perhaps better than ever, and better than has been generally recognized, that America is, indeed, a plutocracy. It took a genuine American oligarch, a self-proclaimed billionaire, a man with a lifetime’s economic empire-building, to defeat a family which could provide the very definition of being politically well-connected, a family which had laboriously constructed and carefully maintained a kind of deep well ever-flowing with money for their ambitions.

It was the ever-flowing well of money, drilled by Bill Clinton with help from some extremely shady friends, such as Jeffrey Epstein, that made the Clintons keystone establishment figures in the Democratic Party. It was not personal charm or exceptional political generalship – although Bill, in his heyday, displayed some of both of those – that earned the Clintons their place, it was the money, the “mother’s milk of politics.” In what is euphemistically called “fund raising,” many hundreds of millions of dollars were provided for the party over the last couple of decades by Bill Clinton’s efforts.

Hillary Clinton fully appreciated the fact that money buys power and influence. She lacked Bill’s superficial charm, but she certainly more than shared his ambition. On the charm front, when she was ready to move into running for office, she adopted, perhaps under Bill’s tutelage, a kind of forced set of expressions with arched eyebrows, bugged-out eyes, and a smile as big as her lips would allow. These expressions were accompanied by little gestures such as briefly pointing to various onlookers or waving helter-skelter whenever she campaigned.

Her gestures reminded me of something you might see atop a float in a Christmas Parade or of the late Harpo Marx at his most exuberant. These were not natural for her. They were never in evidence years ago when she spent years as a kind of bizarre executive housewife, both in a governor’s mansion and later in the White House, bizarre because she indulged her husband’s non-stop predatory sexual behavior in exchange for the immense power it conferred on her behind the scenes over her far more outgoing and successful politician-husband.

Money Talks

Anyway, Hillary knew that gestures and simulated charm do not get you far in American politics. She determined to build a political war chest long ago, and there are many indications over the years of her working towards this end of making this or that change in expressed view, as when running for the Senate, when sources of big money suggested another view would be more acceptable. She was anything but constant in the views that she embraced because when she ran for the Senate she spent record amounts of money, embarrassingly large amounts.

In her years of speaking engagements, she aimed at special interests that could supply potentially far more money than just exorbitant speaking fees. Later, in the influential, appointed post of Secretary of State – coming, as it does, into personal contact with every head of government or moneyed, big-time international schemer – she unquestionably played an aggressive “pay for play” with them all. It appears that covering up that embarrassing and illegal fact is what the private servers and unauthorized smart phones were all about.

A second big fact of the election is that both major American political parties are rather sick and fading. The Republican Party has been broken for a very long time. It hobbled along for some decades with the help of various gimmicks, hoping to expand its constituency with rubbish like “family values,” public prayer in schools and catering to the Christian Right – along with anti-flag burning Constitutional amendments — and now it is truly out of gas.

The Republican Party had been given a breather, some new life, by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. He had an extremely mixed record as President, but he was popular, held in some affection, and did have a clear vision, but his effect on the party was not lasting. Trump could be seen as another Reagan, but I think the comparison is superficial. Trump literally hijacked the party. He was not deliriously crowned by its establishment.

The Republican Party itself was formed not long before Abraham Lincoln’s candidacy out of the remains of worn out and collapsed predecessors, including the Whigs and Free-Soil Democrats. Parties do not last forever, and here was Trump creating something of a minor political revolution inside a tired and fairly directionless old party, a phenomenon which I do not think was sufficiently noticed.

In the Republican primaries, he was opposed by tired, boring men like Jeb Bush, seeking to secure an almost inherited presidency, and a dark, intensely unlikable, phony Christian fundamentalist like Ted Cruz, and it proved to be no contest. Trump’s capture of the GOP nomination was a remarkable political achievement, but I think it was only possible given the sorry state of the party.

The press was too busy attacking Trump from the start to take notice or do any intelligent analysis, and he was attacked precisely for the potential damage to the Establishment that he represented. His most promising quality was his potential for creating a new coalition of interests and one excluding the continuation of the Neocon Wars that Hillary Clinton embraced and promised to expand.

A Democratic Party in Trouble

But the Democratic Party is in serious trouble, too. It has a great deal of internal rot, as the WikiLeaks material from the Democratic National Committee clearly shows us. Arrogance, lack of direction, ignorance of the people whom the party has always claimed to serve, bad decision-making, and the absolute prostrate worship of money are the major symptoms.

It would have been impossible for the party to have so made up its mind and committed its resources to Hillary Clinton without serious rot. She has always had strong negatives in polling, always been (rightly) suspected concerning her honesty.

The WikiLeaks material tells us about many internal conflicts, including harsh high-level judgments of Hillary’s decision-making, resentment over the backstabbing character of daughter Chelsea who is said to resemble Hillary in her behavior and attitudes, and the belief of some that Hillary just should not have run.

And, frankly, Hillary Clinton had become for many a rather tiresome, used-up figure from whom absolutely nothing spectacular in politics or policy could possibly be expected. But they not only blindly supported her, they broke all their own party rules by internally and secretly working to defeat a legitimate and viable contender, Bernie Sanders.

Sanders might well have been able to win the election for the Democrats, but their establishment was blind to the possibility and rejected his candidacy out-of-hand. After all, there were Bill and Hillary beckoning toward their running well of money.

In hindsight, it might be just as well that Sanders was cheated out of the nomination. He proved a weak individual in the end, giving in to just the forces that he had claimed to oppose and leaving his enthusiastic followers completely let down. There he was, out on the hustings, supporting everything he ever opposed as personified in Hillary Clinton. Men of that nature do not stand up well to Generals and Admirals and the heads of massive corporations, a quality which I do think we have some right to expect Trump to display.

Public Distrust

Another important fact about the election is that it was less the triumph of Trump than the avoidance of Hillary that caused the defeat. The numbers are unmistakable. Yes, Trump did well for a political newcomer and a very controversial figure, but Hillary simply did badly, not approaching the support Obama achieved in key states, again something reflecting the documented fact that she is not a well-liked figure and the Party blundered badly in running her.

But again, money talks, and the Clintons, particularly Bill, are the biggest fundraisers they have had in our lifetime. No one was ready to say no to the source of all that money.

Now, to many Americans, the election result must seem a bit like having experienced something of a revolution, although a revolution conducted through ballots, any other kind being literally impossible by design in this massive military-security state.

In a way, it does represent something of a revolutionary event, owing to the fact that Trump the Oligarch is in his political views a bit of a revolutionary or at least a dissenter from the prevailing establishment views. And, as in any revolution, even a small one, there are going to be some unpleasant outcomes.

The historical truth of politics is that you never know from just what surprising source change may come. Lyndon Johnson, life-long crooked politician and the main author of the horrifying and pointless Vietnam War, did more for the rights of black Americans than any other modern president. Franklin Roosevelt, son of wealthy establishment figures, provided remarkable leadership in the Great Depression, restoring hopes and dreams for millions.

Change, important, change, never comes from establishments or institutions like political parties. It always comes from unusual people who seem to step out of their accustomed roles in life with some good or inspired ideas and have the drive and toughness to make them a reality.

I have some limited but important hopes for Trump. I am not blind or delirious expecting miracles from this unusual person, and after the experience of Barack Obama, who seemed such a promising young figure but fairly quickly proved a crushing, bloody disappointment, I can never build up substantial hopes for any politician. And what was the choice anyway? Hillary Clinton was a bought-and-paid one-way ticket to hell.

Trump offers two areas of some hope, and these both represent real change. The first is in reducing America’s close to out-of-control military aggressiveness abroad. This aggressiveness, reflecting momentum from what can only be called the Cheney-Rumsfeld Presidency, continued and grew under the weak and ineffectual leadership of Obama and was boosted and encouraged by Hillary as Secretary of State.

Hillary did a lot of killing during her tenure inside the federal government, advocating and promoting military interventions as First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. She along with Obama is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of men, women and children, many of them literally torn apart by bombs.

Welfare of Americans

The other area of some hope is for the welfare of ordinary Americans who have been completely ignored by national leaders for decades. George W. Bush’s lame reaction to Hurricane Katrina (before he was internationally shamed into some action) has become the normal pattern for America’s national government when it comes to ordinary Americans.

Inside the Democratic Party, the truth is that the legacy of FDR has withered to nothing and no longer plays any role, and of course never did in the Republican Party. By welfare, I do not mean the kind of state assistance to the poor that Bill Clinton himself worked to end. Nothing can impress someone not familiar with America’s dark corners more than a visit to places like Detroit or Gary or Chicago’s South Side, parts of New Orleans, or Newark or dozens of other places where Americans live in conditions in every way comparable to Third World hellholes.

No, I mean the people’s general well-being. Trump’s approach will be through jobs and creating incentives for jobs. I don’t know whether he can succeed, but, just as he asked people in some of his speeches, “What do you have to lose?” Just having someone in power who pays any attention to the “deplorables” is a small gain.

People should never think of the Clintons as liberal or progressive, and that was just as much true for Bill as it is for Hillary. His record as President – apart from his embarrassing behavior in the Oval Office with a young female intern and his recruitment of Secret Service guards as procurers for women he found attractive on his morning runs – was actually pretty appalling.

In his own words, he “ended welfare as we know it.” He signed legislation that would send large numbers of young black men to prison. He also signed legislation that contributed to the country’s later financial collapse under George W. Bush. He often would appoint someone decent and then quickly back off, leaving them dangling, when it looked like approval for the appointment would not be coming.

His FBI conducted the assault on Waco, killing about 80 people needlessly. A pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was destroyed by cruise missiles for no good reason. There were a number of scandals that were never fully explained to the public.

It was his Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who answered, unblinkingly, a television interviewer’s question about a half million Iraqi children who died owing to America’s embargo, “We think the price is worth it.” He committed the war crime of bombing Belgrade, including the intentional destruction of the Serb TV building. When news of the horrors of the Rwanda genocide were first detected by his government, the order secretly went out to shut up about it. No effort was made to intervene in that case.

No, any real change in America could never come from people like the Clintons, either one of them.

John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company.




Who’s to Blame for President Trump?

Exclusive: Team Clinton thought the path to the White House led through a neo-McCarthyistic assault on Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin’s puppet, rather than addressing the real worries of Americans, writes James W Carden.

By James W Carden

Watching the returns come in on the morning of Nov. 9, my mind turned immediately to the question of blame. How could it be that someone so manifestly unqualified for the White House managed to beat a candidate who was widely acknowledged to be the most highly qualified person ever to have run for the nation’s highest office?

For answers, look no further than the hierarchy of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee under Debbie Wasserman Shultz, and, later, longtime Democratic operative and talking head Donna Brazile.

First, as Wikileaks has proven without a shadow of a doubt, it is clear that the DNC colluded with the Clinton campaign as well as with highly placed sources at CNN to fatally undermine and sabotage the progressive insurgency campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Throughout the primary, the Clintons and their vast network of high-profile surrogates in the media  sought to undercut Sanders by painting his supporters as not only completely unrealistic in their expectations for what government can and should do, but as a group of bullying misogynists as well.

Once they managed to push Sanders out of the way, they launched a general election campaign that was stunning in both its incompetence and its cynicism. That the campaign was badly run can hardly come as a surprise, staffed as it was by a young, startlingly vapid campaign manager by name of Robby Mook.

Policy was handled by the equally young and wondrously overrated former head of the policy planning staff at the U.S. State Department, Jake Sullivan. On the evidence of its policy papers and press releases, the campaign, which relied on such “outsiders” as Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden, clearly decided that once Sanders was defeated, they had no lessons to learn from his candidacy.

Ignoring America’s Needs

They failed to recognize that despite the laughably inaccurate Labor Department unemployment statistics, which claim the U.S. unemployment rate is just under 5 percent, millions upon millions of Americans are without work, and are increasingly without hope.

A country which ranks right along side Albania and Bosnia in incidents of infant mortality; a country which has a Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality) on par with Cameroon; a country with nearly 25 million of its citizens addicted to drugs and alcohol; a country that has a crumbling infrastructure and bad schools is a country whose government has repeatedly failed them.

Hillary Clinton, a former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State is, as Donald Trump rightly surmised, widely seen as the face of that government, as the face of those failures.

But instead of addressing the well-founded angst among large swathes of the population, Clinton and her team decided the path to victory would open up not by addressing Trump’s substantive critique of the American economy or his entirely appropriate (though never too well thought-out) questioning of the American imperium. No: Team Clinton, Mook, Sullivan, Podesta and Tanden had a better idea. Let us tie the albatross of Russian president Vladimir Putin around the neck of the gloriously unqualified billionaire candidate.

That, according to Team Clinton, was just the ticket. And so, as I pointed out in the pages of ConsortiumNews as the campaign was ending, the Clinton’s pursued a policy of Red-baiting with abandon. During each debate, at any of Trump’s mentions of Russia, the Clinton campaign apparatus would kick into high gear and release a flurry of press releases designed to cast doubt not only on Trump’s character but on his patriotism.

Unfounded and undocumented accusations of the Trump campaign’s illusory connection to the Kremlin were repeated ad nauseam by prominent voices of the liberal intelligentsia like MSNBC’s Joy Reid, New York Magazine’s Jon Chait, New America Fellow Franklin Foer, Mother Jones editor David Corn, among many others.

Their efforts failed in spectacular fashion in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. The electorate at long last has risen up against the suffocating, foolish and impoverishing neoliberal consensus, which has held sway in Washington for the past 25 years. The rush to normalize trade relations with China, the unbelievably damaging free trade agreements with Mexico, the vast governmental subsidization of Wall Street have ruined and, yes, ended more lives than the many wars this country has been unnecessarily been waging for the past 15 years.

As the University of Michigan’s Juan Cole recently pointed out: “A year ago Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Princeton University economists, published a study with the startling finding that since 1999 death rates have been going up for white Americans aged 45-54. It is even worse than it sounds, since death rates were declining for the general population.”

In other words, neoliberalism at home and neoconservatism abroad are killing Americans (as well as people in countries where the U.S. government has imposed “regime change” solutions). Yet instead of addressing the long, slow and sad decline of the U.S. in the quarter century following the end of the first Cold War, Clinton, Podesta, Mook and Sullivan decided that the correct course of action would be to dream up a fictitious Manchurian candidate scenario in order to defeat Trump, a candidate who, for all of his obvious faults, at least spoke to the problems of ordinary people.

In short: The Clintons and their friends and enablers in the Democratic Party and in the media have only themselves to blame for President-elect Donald J. Trump.

James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s eastwestaccord.com. He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department.




The Establishment’s Massive ‘Intelligence Failure’

As shocking as Donald Trump’s victory was – and as uncertain as the future is – his victory marked a massive “intelligence failure” of the Establishment, a blow to its arrogance and self-dealing, says ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller

President Trump. The very words hit the ear as a shock; the mind is not ready for it.

And that is exactly the problem. We could not see it coming. Among other things this tawdry and interminable election represents a massive American intelligence failure. Not failure of IQ, but failure to grasp reality — now a deeply engrained American characteristic. We not only fail to perceive and grasp reality abroad, but now even at home.

The Establishment was cocksure down to the last hours that such a thing could not, would not happen. It had drunk its own Kool-Aid.

A huge portion of this intelligence failure rests with the Democratic Party. Its complacent certitude of its right to win, expressed right down to the end of Election Day, was vivid.

Such smugness also fed the anger of Trump supporters, many of whom were apparently shamed into hiding it, but who voted Donald Trump in the anonymity of the polling place.

It did not fully grasp the racism that still runs so deeply in American society, the poisonous and corrosive legacy of slavery that has not truly been internalized by most white people. The prejudice against Latino, and especially Mexican people, betrays ignorance of the historical reality that vast areas of rising Latino power in the U.S. today are precisely those regions that once constituted an integral part of a large state of Mexico, its society, culture and politics — Texas, Arizona, California.

The U.S. power Establishment — the two national parties, the bureaucracy, the “deep state,” the military, the security establishment, Wall Street and the corporations — all have believed in their own exceptionalism and right to dominate and determine the course of American society — and indeed even much of the rest of the world.

We had no reason to expect that the Republican Party could serve as the natural voice of those who feel disenfranchised and economically marginalized — dissed in the fullest sense. In this sense, Trump was a revolution from within the ranks of the Republican Party. Or perhaps more accurately, he seized the mechanism of the Republican Party to broadcast a message that the Republican establishment could not see or believe until too late.

And there was widespread and shocking misogyny towards Hillary Clinton and women. And there was shocking racism in the subliminal hostility to the legitimacy of President Obama. That cannot be blamed on the Democratic establishment.

The Democratic Party’s Failure

But for all the ugliness of the Trump campaign, the failure and the blame for this situation rests more deeply with the Democratic Party. This is the party that nominally is supposed to represent the liberal conscience of the country, of those who feel excluded or disadvantaged or just plain hurting within American society.

Yet the party’s establishment not only remained insensitive to the deep source of discontent across American society, it actively sought to crush expressions of it. It was openly allied with corporate America, reveling in the contest of who could collect greater bribe money.

Bernie Sanders, however, did represent a true, clear, open voice articulating a great deal — but not all — of what was profoundly wrong in American society and politics. The Democratic establishment mocked, diminished, or ignored that message as best it could, including President Obama himself. Yet ironically Sanders would likely have defeated Trump.

The performance of the New York Times is especially egregious in this regard. I pick on the Times because it is supposed to represent America’s greatest newspaper, the “newspaper of record,” in theory a voice of centrist liberalism in the country.

Yet the Times, fully representing establishment and corporate interests, would not/could not acknowledge the Sanders campaign for what it was. It treated it as an amusing human-interest story at most, a sideshow while the big boys got on with serious politics. It constantly opposed Sanders to the end. And once Hillary Clinton was the anointed candidate, the Times turned its powerful establishment guns against Trump as the sole remaining threat to the Establishment.

There are lots of things to dislike or even condemn about Trump and many of his followers. But the Times abandoned any pretense of deeper examination of the Establishment that Trump was posing. It became all anti-Trump all day 24/7 with every single writer and voice assigned a niche role in denigrating Trump. News coverage was indistinguishable from editorial.

The paper became analytically a bore, predictable, a kind of Pravda-on-Hudson. Same-ole same-ole every day. They began to believe it. One had to turn to the foreign press to sometimes get a little broader and deeper analysis.

More hearteningly, we got to see the significant power of the left-of-center voices, primarily relegated to the internet, which made major contributions in understanding the phenomena at hand if anybody bothered to look. The Nation has to rank high in this regard, a publication largely dismissed by the Establishment as marginal, ideological and crank. So did other sites like Truth-Out, Common Sense, Real News, Real World News, Consortium News, Tom Englehardt, and Reader Supported News.

It was not that these sites were right about everything, and god knows each had their own clear perspective and preferences as well, but they were willing to examine the alternative realities around us in the world. The Establishment and the mainstream media never got beyond their own smug stance in support of what they believed was the dominant, anointed perspective.

Trump’s Unknowns

What do we now face with the election of Trump? The scariest thing is that we don’t really know. There is a welter of conflicting signals and we each have had our favorite reasons to hate him. Yet manifestly Trump has had his fingers on the pulse of a huge portion of the country that feels angry, oppressed and isolated. (Sanders grasped this as well.)

Trump is also an opportunist. He will say anything to get elected. Most politicians will, but he did it better. (Sanders, to his credit, did not say anything to get elected — that is why the Establishment was so shocked, dismissive and incredulous about him.)

How else to explain the rush of the entire spectrum of the Establishment, Democrat and Republican, including leading neoconservatives, to publicly repudiate Trump and declare Hillary as their candidate?

At this point, Trump’s checkered and inconsistent platform record makes it hard to know who the real Trump is. President Obama is probably right that Trump would seem to be temperamentally unfit to be president. But Trump is not the first to be so.

Let’s remember that for much of his earlier campaign Trump was often to the left of Hillary — he said the rich should pay more taxes, he attacked and discredited Bush Jr.’s military adventures, he said he could get along with Putin, he said that the U.S. should adopt a neutral stance on the Palestinian issue, he opposed the corporatization of foreign policy in the form of “globalization,” and he opposed compulsive U.S. intervention abroad.

He tacitly acknowledged that America was no longer “great”—fairly evident by so many measures, but denied shrilly by Hillary. Trump has subsequently backed off from many of these positions. Were those his instinctive “default” positions? They served him well at the outset, along with lots of other bad ideas and attitudes.

The Republican and Democratic establishments and the American “deep state” are indeed aware that they may be losing their sinecure on political, financial, military and security policy. How successful might they be in enfolding Trump within their embrace and “rightly guiding” him. And do we want that?

The co-optive power of the American “deep state” is great. The Republican and Democrat establishments may be deeply competitive on domestic issues, especially social ones. But they seem to close ranks on foreign policy. There has been no debate, no discussion about American “exceptionalism,” its right to intervene anywhere and everywhere in the world, and the need to maintain American supremacy in all things, especially military.

The knee-jerk hatred of Russia as its former Cold War opponent, now no longer prostrate. America’s deep fear of China as a rising and successful rival. The reluctance to embrace multilateralism except on U.S. terms. The routine preference for military solutions (“if we have it, why not use it?”) involving issues that above all require diplomatic and political solutions. US reluctance to acknowledge the importance of other rising nations, among them the BRICS. The tendency to believe that every issue in the world may represent a “vital American interest.”

Who Is Trump?

In the absence of information so far on who President Trump’s actual appointees will be, it is hard to speculate about future foreign policy. Initial rumors of potential nominees are disquieting. But I tend to think that Trump, by himself, may not be any more likely to stumble into war than Hillary Clinton would have been. Worryingly, the foreign policy “deep state” may override him.

Domestically, non-white Americans, and all women, have much reason to fear his language — even more, to fear the views and voices of many of Trump’s supporters. But Trump may have enough ego to now try to be president of “all of America.”

His FDR, New Deal instincts — occasionally uttered — could be significant. A bold, dramatic new domestic agenda could have great impact and be entirely affordable, but only if corporations pay their taxes and if half the U.S. military budget — bigger than the next ten nations in the world combined — was dedicated to fixing America’s crying infrastructural and economic needs for the bottom 90 percent of the population.

Shockingly, we have a military budget six times greater than the monies allocated to American education — and this in a techno-competitive world.

In the end, this election represents the total collapse of the Republican Party (which is not a true conservative party but a corporate and socially reactionary party). And the election has now gutted the Democratic establishment as well. It had it coming.

But the forces that have kept this country on the wrong path for so long are so intractable, so institutionalized, so resistant to change that it may just require just such a massive shake-up of the system to allow new and creative forces to arise.

Strikingly, America is the only democracy in the world that has no Left. The U.S. political spectrum begins just right of center with Obama (except on social issues) and marches on across to a Crazy Right. Indeed, it is slanderous to be called a liberal today, much less a “leftist.” (Being a “rightist” is fine.)

Above all, we should hope that a true genuine Left will now arise in the country, of which Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are important components. Youth will be its vital second base. Its ranks will grow rapidly if Trump fails to deliver.

The need for big-time change has never been more apparent. Will this cataclysm within the Establishment now give birth to new creative forces, bigger than Trump himself?

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on geopolitics and the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle) grahamefuller.com




System Failure for the Establishment

Democrats thought the political establishment and mainstream media would assure them victory as they brushed off Bernie Sanders and insisted on Hillary Clinton, ignoring the growing hatred of “the system,” notes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

On Election Day, Hillary Clinton, with all her data specialists and poll gurus, came up short. The morning after, they didn’t know what hit them – that is, the unexpected fact that statistical data and real life don’t always coincide. People often tell pollsters what they think the pollsters want to hear, or what media tells them is the expected answer, while clandestinely harboring different opinions that they share only with their family, friends and drinking buddies.

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic leadership, as well as their Republican Party counterparts, represent a well-entrenched political system. That system is responsive to lobbies or interest groups and not disgruntled citizens. What is more, none of the country’s political bosses can see beyond this system and how it relates to their own political needs.

During the 2016 election campaign that near sightedness led to a fatal misinterpretation: that Trump represented only hooligans and “deplorable” people who could not themselves possibly add up to a “silent majority.” Thinking along these lines, Clinton and the overconfident Democratic establishment made a perhaps unconscious decision to let this apparent bozo Trump lose the election, rather than they, the Democrats, going out there and doing what was necessary to win it.

For instance, they apparently did not bother to design a message to compete for the votes of those listening to Trump. They did not take into consideration the historically observable fact that millions of Americans had, over the last 50 years, seemed to give up on politics because they saw the system as unresponsive. The Democrat establishment did not respond to this phenomenon. Indeed, they made sure Bernie Sanders, the only Democratic who was trying to respond, would fail.

A Deep Division

The truth is that the United States is a very deeply divided country, and has been since the 1960s. The division is multifaceted and involves cultural issues that touch on gender, race and lifestyle; and class issues such as job creation and trade treaties. Also, the city mouse/country mouse divide is very real and very deep.

Much of rural white America has various degrees of negative feelings toward African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and anyone else who does not look and talk like them. These are the same sort of people who once hated kids with long hair, afros, and a preference for marijuana over whiskey.

All of these disgruntled ones, like those millions of Christian Fundamentalists out there, have never gone away. They were just waiting – even if some of them didn’t know it. They were waiting for a “hero,” and when he appeared, they elected him president.

So the divisions are real and they are not new. And no one in the political establishment, Democrat or Republican, addressed them. That opened the door for Mr. Trump.

That means Trump’s victory should not properly be seen as a Republican Party victory. Trump just exploited the party label. In truth, he has destroyed the Republican Party as we traditionally knew it. Its future is very uncertain.

What Can We Expect?

Donald Trump has made a fetish out of being unpredictable, which, at the very least, is bad for the stock market. Inevitably, however, there will be signs that give a hint as to what might be expected.

For instance, Trump will have to name a cabinet. Interestingly enough, most of those who will be available, be they private-sector business people or right-wing goofballs like Sarah Palin and Chris Christie, are creatures of the standing political system. They have no real interest in reforming current ways of doing things as against profiting from them – which, of course, is a form of business as usual.

There will be tremendous pressure on Donald Trump to go along with and slot himself into the existing political system in Washington (as did President Obama). At every turn, in Congress and in the bureaucracies, there will be no one to deal with but systems people.

Beyond a limited number of exclusively executive functions, Trump needs standing political arrangements to operate. Thus, if he suddenly turns relatively conventional, no one should be too surprised. What about all that campaign rebel talk? Well, remember, he is unpredictable which, in his case, goes well with also being a consistent liar.

Trump promised a lot during the campaign. He was going to rebuild the inner cities, the military, all of the nation’s bridges, etc. And he would do so while simultaneously lowering taxes. Short of bankrupting the country, this is fiscally impossible.

He promised to remake foreign policy, which, being within the realm of executive power, may be more doable. Will he try to cancel international trade agreements? Will he pull out of NATO? Will he dump the Zionists and the Saudis? Will he ally with the Russians?

These are interesting questions. What about global warming, which he claims not to believe in? How about international law and our relationship to the United Nations? It’s all up for grabs, and that worries a lot of people – very few of whom voted for Trump.

Many of those who did vote for Donald Trump don’t care about any of this. They voted for him because he appeared to stand against the political system they hate. They want the country ethnically cleansed of Mexicans, the government downsized and, culturally, the clock turned back to the 1950s. If he does not do this, he will appear to have become part of that hateful system, and his fans may well end up hating him too.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.




Why Trump Won; Why Clinton Lost

Exclusive: Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat reflected a gross misjudgment by the Democratic Party about the depth of populist anger against self-serving elites who have treated much of the country with disdain, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In the end, Hillary Clinton became the face of a corrupt, arrogant and out-of-touch Establishment, while Donald Trump emerged as an almost perfectly imperfect vessel for a populist fury that had bubbled beneath the surface of America.

There is clearly much to fear from a Trump presidency, especially coupled with continued Republican control of  Congress. Trump and many Republicans have denied the reality of climate change; they favor more tax cuts for the rich; they want to deregulate Wall Street and other powerful industries – all policies that helped create the current mess that the United States and much of the world are now in.

Further, Trump’s personality is problematic to say the least. He lacks the knowledge and the temperament that one would like to see in a President – or even in a much less powerful public official. He appealed to racism, misogyny, white supremacy, bigotry toward immigrants and prejudice toward Muslims. He favors torture and wants a giant wall built across America’s southern border.

But American voters chose him in part because they felt they needed a blunt instrument to smash the Establishment that has ruled and mis-ruled America for at least the past several decades. It is an Establishment that not only has grabbed for itself almost all the new wealth that the country has produced but has casually sent the U.S. military into wars of choice, as if the lives of working-class soldiers are of little value.

On foreign policy, the Establishment had turned decision-making over to the neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks, a collection of haughty elitists who often subordinated American interests to those of Israel and Saudi Arabia, for political or financial advantage.

The war choices of the neocon/liberal-hawk coalition have been disastrous – from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya to Syria to Ukraine – yet this collection of know-it-alls never experiences accountability. The same people, including the media’s armchair warriors and the think-tank “scholars,” bounce from one catastrophe to the next with no consequences for their fallacious “group thinks.” Most recently, they have ginned up a new costly and dangerous Cold War with Russia.

For all his faults, Trump was one of the few major public figures who dared challenge the “group thinks” on the current hot spots of Syria and Russia. In response, Clinton and many Democrats chose to engage in a crude McCarthyism with Clinton even baiting Trump as Vladimir Putin’s “puppet” during the final presidential debate.

It is somewhat remarkable that those tactics failed; that Trump talked about cooperation with Russia, rather than confrontation, and won. Trump’s victory could mean that rather than escalating the New Cold War with Russia, there is the possibility of a ratcheting down of tensions.

Repudiating the Neocons

Thus, Trump’s victory marks a repudiation of the neocon/liberal-hawk orthodoxy because the New Cold War was largely incubated in neocon/liberal-hawk think tanks, brought to life by likeminded officials in the U.S. State Department, and nourished by propaganda across the mainstream Western media.

It was the West, not Russia, that provoked the confrontation over Ukraine by helping to install a fiercely anti-Russian regime on Russia’s borders. I know the mainstream Western media framed the story as “Russian aggression” but that was always a gross distortion.

There were peaceful ways for settling the internal differences inside Ukraine without violating the democratic process, but U.S. neocons, such as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, and wealthy neoliberals, such as financial speculator George Soros, pushed for a putsch that overthrew the elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

Putin’s response, including his acceptance of Crimea’s overwhelming referendum to return to Russia and his support for ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine opposing the coup regime in Kiev, was a reaction to the West’s destabilizing and violent actions. Putin was not the instigator of the troubles.

Similarly, in Syria, the West’s “regime change” strategy, which dates back to neocon planning in the mid-1990s, involved collaboration with Al Qaeda and other Islamic jihadists to remove the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. Again, Official Washington and the mainstream media portrayed the conflict as all Assad’s fault, but that wasn’t the full picture.

From the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, U.S. “allies,” including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, have been aiding the rebellion, with Turkey and the Gulf states funneling money and weapons to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and even to the Al Qaeda spinoff, Islamic State.

Though President Barack Obama dragged his heels on the direct intervention advocated by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama eventually went in halfway, bending to political pressure by agreeing to train and arm so-called “moderates” who ended up fighting next to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other jihadists in Ahrar al-Sham.

Trump has been inarticulate and imprecise in describing what policies he would follow in Syria, besides suggesting that he would cooperate with the Russians in destroying Islamic State. But Trump didn’t seem to understand the role of Al Qaeda in controlling east Aleppo and other Syrian territory.

Uncharted Territory

So, the American voters have plunged the United States and the world into uncharted territory behind a President-elect who lacks a depth of knowledge on a wide variety of issues. Who will guide a President Trump becomes the most pressing issue today.

Will he rely on traditional Republicans who have done so much to mess up the country and the world or will he find some fresh-thinking realists who will realign policy with core American interests and values.

For this dangerous and uncertain moment, the Democratic Party establishment deserves a large share of the blame. Despite signs that 2016 would be a year for an anti-Establishment candidate – possibly someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders – the Democratic leadership decided that it was “Hillary’s turn.”

Alternatives like Warren were discouraged from running so there could be a Clinton “coronation.” That left the 74-year-old socialist from Vermont as the only obstacle to Clinton’s nomination and it turned out that Sanders was a formidable challenger. But his candidacy was ultimately blocked by Democratic insiders, including the unelected “super-delegates” who gave Clinton an early and seemingly insurmountable lead.

With blinders firmly in place, the Democrats yoked themselves to Clinton’s gilded carriage and tried to pull it all the way to the White House. But they ignored the fact that many Americans came to see Clinton as the personification of all that is wrong about the insular and corrupt world of Official Washington. And that has given us President-elect Trump.

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




Reasons to Risk Nuclear Annihilation

Exclusive: The latest neocon/liberal-hawk scheme is for the U.S. population to risk nuclear war to protect corrupt politicians in Ukraine and Al Qaeda terrorists in east Aleppo, two rather dubious reasons to end life on the planet, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Obviously, I never wanted to see a nuclear war, which would likely kill not only me but my children, grandchildren, relatives, friends and billions of others. We’d be incinerated in the blast or poisoned by radiation or left to starve in a nuclear winter.

But at least I always assumed that this horrific possibility would only come into play over something truly worthy, assuming that anything would justify the mass extinction of life on the planet.

Now, however, Official Washington’s neocons and liberal interventionists are telling me and others that we should risk nuclear annihilation over which set of thieves gets to rule Ukraine and over helping Al Qaeda terrorists (and their “moderate” allies) keep control of east Aleppo in Syria.

In support of the Ukraine goal, there is endless tough talk at the think tanks, on the op-ed pages and in the halls of power about the need to arm the Ukrainian military so it can crush ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine who dared object to the U.S.-backed coup in 2014 that ousted their elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

And after “liberating” eastern Ukraine, the U.S.-backed Ukrainian army would wheel around and “liberate” Crimea from Russia, even though 96 percent of Crimean voters voted to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia – and there is no sign they want to go back.

So, the world would be risking World War III over the principle of the West’s right to sponsor the overthrow of elected leaders who don’t do what they’re told and then to slaughter people who object to this violation of democratic order.

This risk of nuclear Armageddon would then be compounded to defend the principle that the people of Crimea don’t have the right of self-determination but must submit to a corrupt post-coup regime in Kiev regardless of Crimea’s democratic judgment.

And, to further maintain our resolve in this gamble over nuclear war in defense of Ukraine, we must ignore the spectacle of the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev wallowing in graft and corruption.

While the Ukrainian people earn on average $214 a month and face neoliberal “reforms,” such as reduced pensions, extended years of work for the elderly and slashed heating subsidies, their new leaders in the parliament report wealth averaging more than $1 million in “monetary assets” each, much of it in cash.

A Troubling Departure

The obvious implication of widespread corruption was underscored on Monday with the abrupt resignation of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili who was the appointed governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region.

Though Saakashvili faces charges of abusing power back in Georgia, he was nevertheless put in charge of Odessa by current President Petro Poroshenko, but has now quit (or was ousted) amid charges and counter-charges about corruption.

Noting the mysterious wealth of Ukraine’s officials, Saakashvili denounced the country’s rulers as “corrupt filth” and accused Poroshenko and his administration of sabotaging real reform.

“Odessa can only develop once Kiev will be freed from these bribe takers, who directly patronize organized crime and lawlessness,” Saakashvili said. Yes, that would be a good slogan to scribble on the side of a nuclear bomb heading for Moscow: “Defending the corrupt filth and bribe takers who patronize organized crime.”

But the recent finger-pointing about corruption is also ironic because the West cited the alleged corruption of the Yanukovych government to justify the violent putsch in February 2014 that drove him from office and sparked Ukraine’s current civil war.

Yet, the problems don’t stop with Kiev’s corruption. There is the troubling presence of neo-Nazis, ultranationalists and even Islamic jihadists assigned to the Azov battalion and other military units sent east to the front lines to kill ethnic Russians.

On top of that, United Nations human rights investigators have accused Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service of hiding torture chambers.

But we consumers of the mainstream U.S. media’s narrative are supposed to see the putschists as the white hats and Yanukovych (who was excoriated for having a sauna in his official residence) and Russian President Vladimir Putin as the black hats.

Though U.S. officials, such as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, helped organize or “midwife” the coup ousting Yanukovych, we are told that the Ukraine crisis was a clear-cut case of “Russian aggression” and Crimea’s decision to secede (and rejoin Russia) was a “Russian invasion” and an “annexation.”

So, all stirred up with righteous indignation, we absorbed the explanation that economic sanctions were needed to punish Putin and to destabilize Russian society, with the hoped-for goal of another “regime change,” this time in Moscow.

We weren’t supposed to ask if anyone had actually thought through the idea of destabilizing a nuclear-armed power and the prospect that Putin’s overthrow, even if possible, might lead to a highly unstable fight for control of the nuclear codes.

Silencing Dissent

Brushing aside such worries, the neocons/liberal-hawks are confident that the answer is to move NATO forces up to Russia’s borders and to provide military training to Ukraine’s army, even to its neo-Nazi “shock troops.”

After all, when have the neocons and their liberal interventionist sidekicks ever miscalculated about anything. No fair mentioning Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or other lucky countries that have been on the receiving end of a benighted “regime change.”

An American who protests or even mentions the risk of nuclear war is dismissed as a “Kremlin stooge” or a “Putin puppet” or a “useful fool” repeating “Russian disinformation” and assisting Moscow’s “information war” against the U.S. government.

But if you’re still a bit queasy about risking nuclear annihilation to keep some Ukrainian kleptocrats in power, there is the other cause worth having the human race die over: protecting Al Qaeda terrorists and their “moderate” rebel comrades holed up in east Aleppo.

Since these modern terrorists turn out to be highly skilled with video cameras and the dissemination of propaganda, they have created the image for Westerners that the Syrian military and its Russian allies simply want to kill as many children as possible.

Indeed, most Western coverage of the battle for Aleppo whites out the role of Al Qaeda almost completely although occasionally the reality slips through in on-the-ground reporting, along with the admission that Al Qaeda and its fellow fighters are keeping as many civilians in east Aleppo as possible, all the better to put up heartrending videos and photos on social media.

Of course, when a similar situation exists in Islamic State-held Mosul, Iraq, the mainstream Western media dutifully denounces the tactic of keeping children in a war zone as the cynical use of “human shields,” thus justifying Iraqi and U.S. forces killing lots of civilians during their “liberation.” The deaths are all the enemy’s fault.

However, when the shoe is on the Syrian/Russian foot, we’re talking about “war crimes” and the need to invade Syria to establish “safe zones” and “no-fly zones” even if that means killing large numbers of additional Syrians and shooting down Russian warplanes.

After all, isn’t the protection of Al Qaeda terrorists worth the risk of starting World War III with nuclear-armed Russia? And if Al Qaeda isn’t worth fighting a nuclear war to defend, what about the thieves in Ukraine and their neo-Nazi shock troops? Calling Dr. Strangelove.

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




Hillary Clinton’s Exploits in McCarthyism

The New Cold Warriors who surround Hillary Clinton have made Russia-bashing and McCarthyism the go-to tactics to silence the few voices warning of the grave and unnecessary risks of a new Cold War, notes James W Carden.

By James W Carden

Now that the 2016 election campaign is at long last over, an examination of the reckless, fact-free, innuendo-laden McCarthyite rhetoric which Hillary Clinton’s campaign surrogates deployed over the past several months is in order.

The first and most obvious point to be made is that the anti-Russia hysteria that characterized the election, particularly in its final weeks, did not come out of nowhere; in fact, it should be seen as part of a natural progression of the elite media’s Russophobia which took root in and around the Ukraine crisis of late 2013-early 2014 and led, almost ineffably, not only to charges of Russian election-rigging in the United States but in the identification, in the pages of Newsweek and the Washington Post, of Russian fifth-columns within the United States.

How the Ukraine crisis poisoned America political discourse is by now well known. As I reported in The Nation almost 18 months ago, the cottage industry of unscrupulous neo-McCarthyites which has grown up around Washington, London and Manhattan in recent years has sought to stifle debate by bandying charges of unpatriotic disloyalty against anyone questioning the wisdom of U.S. policy toward Russia. (It bears noting that something similar regarding Syria policy is happening as I write, driven, for the most part, by the usual suspects.)

As one long time political scientist told me at the time, “The atmosphere here in the U.S. created by the Ukraine crisis is poisonous – and I say this having been an academic for 37 years.”

The millennial careerists who help staff the ranks of the New Cold Warriors instinctually reach for ad hominem attacks over reasoned argument – and in so doing helped make way for the tactics the Clinton campaign unleashed in 2016.

By the time the nominating conventions rolled around this summer, the Clinton campaign was engaged in a Twenty-first Century witch hunt against any Trump adviser who had so much as visited Russia. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and foreign policy adviser Carter Page were both hounded out of the campaign by Clinton-inspired media smears.

Clinton’s campaign, which was run by Robby Mook, a 36-year-old hot shot who clearly relished his role as a kind of millennial Roy Cohn, repeatedly attacked former Ambassador to Germany and arms control negotiator under Ronald Reagan, Richard Burt.

Burt was singled out, not only by the Clinton camp, but by Salon and Newsweek, because he had served as an adviser to Alfa Bank, the Russian bank which played a starring role in former New Republic editor’s Franklin Foer’s thoroughly debunked article on the Trump Organization’s (non-existent) “secret” email server.

Yet what is most interesting isn’t so much the smears – phrases like “useful idiot” and “Kremlin stooge” which are mostly warmed-over fare from the first Cold War – but the mindset of the New Cold Warriors. How is it that these self-anointed crusaders for “humanitarian intervention” and “democratization,” these self-appointed enemies of tyranny, end up on the side of neo-Nazis in Ukraine, Al Qaeda and al-Nusra affiliate in Syria, all the while stirring up sectarian and nationalist pathologies across the Middle East and Eastern Europe?

Cold War Nostalgia

The first thing to recognize is that our New Cold Warriors suffer from la nostalgie de la guerre froide. The historian John Lukacs has written at length on this pathology. In his destined to be classic The End of The Twentieth Century, Lukacs cast a gimlet eye on what he saw as the tendency of academic and media types during the first Cold War to practice “anti-Communism at a safe distance.”

This tendency, according to Lukacs, sprang from two sources: first, from a “sense of self-satisfaction: knowing that one is on the right side, on the respectable side together with all of those right-thinking people.”

Lukacs, himself no apologist for Communism, also observed that this tendency is driven by “the exaggeration of the diabolical powers and machination of Communism and the Communists.” Substitute “Communism and the Communists” for “Putin and the Kremlin” and you have a perfect precis of New Cold Warrior thinking.

No better example of this tendency to talk a tough game against post-Communist Russia by academics and journalists safe in the knowledge that they will never be called upon to fight, was a conference convened by Franklin Foer’s New Republic in Kiev in May 2014.

Some background may be in order: The Ukrainian crisis – involving the violent ouster of elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014 – escalated into a full-scale civil war in and around April 6 in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. The Western-supported government in Kiev, depicting the indigenous anti-coup movement for a Russian invasion, sent its military and privately funded militias to crush the uprising in what was called an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” or ATO.

To some, it was a tragedy of the first order that Kiev chose war and missed an opportunity to earn – via negotiation and compromise – much needed legitimacy in the east for what was, after all, a junta government.

Yet others, like Yale University historian Timothy Snyder and the New Republic’s literary editor Leon Wieseltier, embraced the ouster of Yanukovych and were positively exultant; so much so that they wasted little time in making their way to Kiev, “rallying to democracy’s side.”

The conference, “Ukraine: Thinking Together,” featured several luminaries of the liberal-interventionist left including Franklin Foer; Iraq War apologist Paul Berman; National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman;  a founding father of Poland’s Solidarity movement, Adam Michnik; a historian of Eastern Europe, Timothy Garton Ash; and the preening cheerleader of NATO’s war on Libya, Bernard Henri Levy.

In a note announcing the conference, Wieseltier, sounding an awful lot like Christopher Hitchens in the run-up to the Iraq War, declared: “We cannot just sit back and watch Putin’s imperialism and repression. There are times and places where one must stand up and be counted.”

From where did this impulse to “stand and up and be counted” arise? Well, Wieseltier’s remarks in Kiev are revealing and are worth quoting at length. In his rhetoric we can hear a not-so-faint echo of Edward Arlington Robinson’s Miniver Cheevy:

“I watched the progress of Putin’s imperialism beyond his borders and fascism within his borders, I ruefully remarked to Frank Foer that the moment reminded me of what I used to call my Congress for Cultural Freedom-envy — my somewhat facile but nonetheless sincere regret at having been born too late to participate in the struggle of Western intellectuals, some of whom became my teachers and my heroes, against the Stalinist assault on democracy in Europe. And all of a sudden, pondering the Russian aggression in Crimea, and the Russian campaign of destabilization in Ukraine, I realized that I had exaggerated my belatedness. I was not born too late at all.”

That explains rather a lot. Wieseltier – and in all likelihood Levy and Foer – were suffering from a bad case of history-envy and saw in the crisis in Ukraine a chance to assuage their consciences and prove their worth on the world-historical stage. It is, it must be admitted, an odd way to go about it, socializing in Kiev with a Facebook billionaire, your friends and neocon fellow travelers from the magazine all the while homes, schools and hospitals in eastern Ukraine were being shelled to bits by the very government you traveled so far to “demonstrate solidarity” with.

Putin Hatred

If Cold War nostalgia plays a role in shaping the weltanschauung of the New Cold Warriors, so too does their uncritical embrace of anyone who opposes Russian President Vladimir Putin. The New Cold Warriors are, in effect, blinded by pseudo-solidarity for Putin’s “victims” like the crass performance artists Pussy Riot and the wondrously corrupt former oligarch-turned-sainted dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

And then, of course, there is the new Ukraine where the government, so enthusiastically embraced by Franklin Foer’s New Republic, has embarked on program of de-Communization which, since Ukraine and Communism parted ways a quarter of a century ago, means, in practice, a program of de-Russification, with all that entails, including, a conscious erasure of the Soviet Union’s role in defeating the Nazis and a whitewashing of Ukraine’s ugly history of anti-Semitism, including the role of Stepan Bandera, the wartime leader of the nationalist OUN which was responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles.

As the magazine The Forward reported: “The whitewashing, now a disturbingly widespread phenomenon, ramped up in earnest after Ukraine’s 2013–2014 Maidan uprising and the ensuing conflict with Russia. On January 1, 2014, 15,000 ultra-nationalists marched through Kiev carrying placards with [Ukrainian nationalist Stepan] Bandera’s image and chanting OUN slogans; today, marches honoring Bandera, the OUN and Ukrainian SS units take place regularly across Ukraine.

“In the spring of 2015, Ukraine’s parliament passed a highly controversial law, mandating that Bandera and his groups be regarded as Ukrainian patriots, and making denial of their heroism a criminal offense.”

In a way, these developments were probably a long time in coming and have been facilitated by the effective disenfranchisement of a large share of the Russo-phone east. Consider the spike in nationalist sentiment in Eastern Europe in the post-Cold War years.

We return briefly to the historian Lukacs who observed in 1993 “a growing nostalgia and appreciation of nationalist Eastern European governments before and during the Second World War.” He observed that in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall, “schools and streets” in Slovakia and Croatia were being renamed in honor of Nazi collaborators, while in Romania “the murderous Iron Cross now enjoys a recurrent wave of nostalgic prestige.”

The American media has willfully turned a blind eye to these similar and ominous developments in Ukraine (to say nothing of the recent torchlight parades in NATO-allied Estonia) because what matters among the New Cold Warriors is to appear to be “taking a stand” against the Russian bogeyman.

Ignoring Reality

And then there is the inability or unwillingness of the New Cold Warriors to take realpolitik considerations into account when it comes to Russia. This is odd, since they are as of one mind when it comes to far more sinister regimes like Saudi Arabia, where people quite literally have their heads chopped off in the middle of the street in broad daylight.

But, they will say, the U.S. needs Saudi Arabia because a) they have oil and b) they oppose the Iranians. As arch-neoconservative Bret Stephens recently said in an exchange with Sen. Rand Paul on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” we are “lucky” to have the Saudis as allies.

Leave that nonsense aside for the moment: the point is that the facility to think in terms of geo-strategy abandons the New Cold Warriors when it comes to Russia and Vladimir Putin. And so, the fact that Russia does not threaten American interests in our hemisphere; that it did more than most NATO allies to assist in the fight in Afghanistan (via the Northern Distribution Network); that it was a crucial player in the Iranian P5+1 negotiations (which the New Cold Warriors probably hold against the Russians, since they are nearly all opposed to the deal); and that it brokered the deal to dismantle Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program in Syria are all studiously ignored in their analyses.

In other words, panic and handwringing over the alleged “cyber war” aside, Putin’s Russia does not threaten U.S. interests, properly defined. Indeed, Russia has, whether we find its domestic politics and widespread government corruption distasteful or not (and I do), proved to be an important partner when its core interests coincide with ours – which is more often than not.

Interests should drive policy not ephemeral, so-called “shared values” to which the New Cold Warriors themselves only fitfully adhere.

Twenty-five years ago, one U.S. president sketched out an alternative path to the one that the U.S. has been pursuing since Bill Clinton took office. In a speech much derided by those who practiced “anti-Communism at a safe distance,” President George H.W. Bush traveled to Kiev on Aug. 1, 1991, to warn against succumbing to the siren song of ethno-nationalism.

“Freedom, democracy, and economic liberty,” said Bush, “No terms have been abused more regularly, nor more cynically than these. Throughout this century despots have masqueraded as democrats, jailers have posed as liberators.” He continued in a vein almost unthinkable by an American president today: “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.”

Bush was prescient: the steady diet of Russophobia and anti-Putin hysteria now underway (and de rigueur among the New Cold Warriors) is fanning the flames of ethno-nationalist hatred within Europe. Does this development enhance or detract from pan-European stability and U.S. national security?

The answer is clear. And yet the new crusaders persist, and worryingly, as of Tuesday, may have a commander-in-chief who completely shares their views waiting in the wings.

James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s eastwestaccord.com. He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department.




The Cruelty of US Economic Sanctions

Propaganda pervades the mainstream U.S. media as much today about Russia and Syria as it did years ago about Iraq, justifying the harm inflicted on civilians whether via bombs or economic strangulation, says David Smith-Ferri.

By David Smith-Ferri

Here in Russia, where I have been traveling as part of a small delegation organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence,  the people with whom we have spoken have no illusions about war and its effects.

“We remember what war is like,” Nikolay, a scientist and businessman, told us. “We have a genetic memory,” referring to close relatives – parents, grandparents – who passed on their experience of the Great Purge and/or the siege of Leningrad, when nearly a million Russians died of starvation and disease because Germany cut off all imports and exports.

“Three of my grandmother’s brothers and four of my grandfather’s brothers died in the war. My mother was born in 1937. She was lucky to survive the war. She lived in a village that the Nazis overran on their approach to Moscow. They bombed and burned it. Half the village burned. She just happened to be in the other half of the town when they set it on fire. Many of her friends died.”

On our last evening in St. Petersburg, we were glad to have dinner at a Georgian restaurant with a young Russian woman whom we had met the day before at a friend’s home. Alina is bright and open and unselfish. In rapid-fire English with a slight British accent, she spoke passionately about the harsh effects of Russia’s worsening economy and its causes.

“The drop in global oil prices and the sanctions against Russia are hurting our economy. And it’s causing a lot of pain for people. Especially for elderly people who are on a fixed income. And it’s worse outside of the cities, where salaries are really low, but the cost of living isn’t so different (from the cities). You’ve only been in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but it’s really bad in the provinces. If you went there, you wouldn’t believe it.”

This confirmed what we’d heard when we met days earlier with Russian social workers. Alina told us that “food in Russia is cheap for foreigners and expensive for Russians, and it’s getting worse. I spend almost half my salary on food. And transportation and housing are really expensive, too.”

The Iraq Precedent

I’m reminded of travel to Iraq which I undertook in the mid-1990s when small groups of U.S. and British people went to Iraq in defiance of federal law and in opposition to a brutal international economic embargo. We were portrayed as fools playing into the hands of the “enemy.”

 

Mainstream media convinced people that Saddam Hussein was not only a threat to vital U.S. interests in the region but also a person with imperial ambitions who would stop at nothing to accomplish them. Comparisons were made with Hitler, as if the means at his disposal were comparable, despite the fact that the Iraqi army, including its vaunted Republican Guard, had collapsed in a matter of weeks when the U.S. invaded in 1991, and the economic embargo had strangled Iraq’s economy and destroyed its ability even to care for itself, let alone pursue regional domination.

All of this, of course, was widely understood by the U.S. media, but it didn’t stop an energetic and unyielding portrayal of Saddam Hussein as a credible threat to the world. And so U.S. people, who surely could have handled a more complex analysis, came to accept and believe this. More, they came to see the economic warfare as a point of honor, U.S. foreign policy once again working for the benefit of the world (even if the world wasn’t grateful!), including Iraqi people who clearly needed help deposing a cruel and dangerous dictator.

This failure of the U.S. media to break its addiction to governmental propaganda provided necessary cover for U.S. foreign policies that caused hundreds of thousands of children under the age of five to die from preventable diseases, primarily related to water-borne infections. They died in large numbers day after day, month after month, year after year, unnecessarily, while their desperate parents held them, while exhausted doctors could do nothing to save them because they couldn’t get the once easily-obtainable antibiotics and rehydration fluids.

Despite the magnitude of the carnage in Iraq, despite the heart-rending scenes playing out daily in hospitals and homes, despite easy access to abundant and reliable information and images, the mainstream media (with notable exceptions in later years) averted its eyes and stuck to its narrow obsessive-compulsions. And the children died.

As early as 1996, UNICEF published a report stating that 4,500 Iraqi children under the age of five were dying each month, victims of a brutal, lethal economic warfare.

Start toward Russian ‘Regime Change’

The U.S. levied sanctions against Russia in 2014, stating they were in response to Russian military actions in Ukraine, and today the White House openly identifies increased sanctions as a possible response to Russian support of the Syrian government.

Just as the American media ignored the effects of the sanctions regime on ordinary Iraqis, so today it fails to consider the plight of ordinary Russians when analyzing the success of sanctions.

An Oct. 26 article in the Chicago Tribune noted that sanctions are implicated in a 3.7 percent contraction of the Russian economy in 2015, with a further contraction expected over 2016, but the author failed to consider possible hardships on Russian people, as if economies somehow only effect government revenues and not people’s lives.

While the current sanctions regime may strike people in the U.S. as a justifiable, tempered, nonviolent policy, it begs many questions, not least of all: who gives the U.S. the right to do this?

Of course, this is a forbidden question. The U.S. right to levy sanctions against Russia and to pressure European nations to participate is as sacrosanct as its right to build military bases in countries along Russia’s border.

Does anyone in the media question that? It is as sacrosanct, apparently, as the U.S. right to engage in military action in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and anywhere else it chooses. So, if Russia deserves to be sanctioned for its actions in Europe, does the U.S. not also deserve to be sanctioned for building these bases and participating in NATO military exercises in countries bordering Russia?

Why are Russian military actions in Syria different than U.S. military actions in Syria and elsewhere in the region? [Except that Russia was invited to assist the sovereign Syrian government, while the United States was not.]

Who was there to sanction the U.S. for its role in the horrible bombing of the MSF hospital in Afghanistan and the bombing of hospitals in Yemen? Who sanctions the U.S. when its drones bomb a wedding party or a civilian convoy, or when targeted assassinations kill innocent civilians, as they often do? Or when U.S. airstrikes kill civilians, as happened just days ago in Kunduz, Afghanistan?

U.S. people can learn something important from our Russian counterparts – that is, ordinary Russians who are at least as opposed to war as we are. They seem to understand the double standard operating in mass media and the danger it poses.

But until we see it and start asking difficult questions, we are at risk of being dupes, not of Vladimir Putin but of our own government.




New York Times: Apologist for Power

Special Report: Over the past couple of decades, America’s preeminent newspaper, The New York Times, has lost its journalistic way, becoming a propaganda platform and an apologist for the powerful, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In recent years, The New York Times has behaved as if whatever the Establishment claims is true must be true, failing to show thoughtful skepticism whether the findings are coming from a congressional report, an intelligence assessment, a criminal investigation or even an outfit as disreputable as the National Football League.

If some powerful institution asserts a conclusion, the Times falls in line and expects everyone else to do so as well. Yet, that is not journalism; it is mindless submission to authority; and it indirectly pushes many people into the swamps of conspiracy theories. After all, if professional journalists simply ratify whatever dubious claims are coming from powerful institutions, inquisitive citizens will try to fill in the blanks themselves and sometimes buy into outlandishly false speculations.

In my journalistic career, I have found both extremes troubling: the Times’ assumption that the authorities are almost always right and the conspiracy theorists who follow up some “what I can’t understand” comment with a patently absurd explanation and then get angry when rational people won’t go along.

Though both attitudes have become dangerous for a functioning democracy, the behavior of the Times deserves the bulk of the blame, since the “newspaper of record” carries far more weight in setting public policy and also is partly to blame for creating this blight of conspiracism.

Some of the Times’ failures are well known, such as its 2002 front-page acceptance of claims from officials and allies of George W. Bush’s administration that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program and had purchased some aluminum tubes to do so. The Times’ bogus story allowed Bush’s top aides to go on Sunday talk shows to warn that “we must not allow the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

But the “aluminum tube” story was only part of a long-developing pattern. As an investigative reporter in Washington since 1980, I had seen the Times engage in similar publications of false stories planted by powerful insiders.

For instance, based on self-serving information from Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department in the mid-1980s, the Times knocked down the original reporting that my Associated Press colleague Brian Barger and I did on Nicaraguan Contra rebels getting involved in cocaine smuggling.

And, once the Times got snookered by its official sources, it and other mainstream publications carried on vendettas against anyone who contradicted the accepted wisdom, unwilling to admit that they were wrong even at the expense of historical truth.

So, when San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb revived the Contra-cocaine story in 1996 — with evidence that some of that cocaine had fed into the “crack epidemic” — the Times (along with other major newspapers) savaged Webb’s articles and destroyed his career.

Finally, in 1998 when the CIA’s Inspector General Frederick Hitz confirmed that the Contras indeed had engaged in extensive cocaine trafficking, the Times only published a grudging and limited admission that maybe there was a bit more to the story than the vaunted Times had previously accepted. But Webb’s career and life remained in ruins. He eventually committed suicide in 2004 (and please, conspiracists, don’t go on about how he was “murdered” by the CIA).

[For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.”]

Hiding Gore’s Victory

By the time of Webb’s destruction, the Times was neck-deep in a troubling pattern of getting virtually every major story wrong or sitting on important information that some of its own journalists had dug up.

In 2000, after five partisan Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court shut down the vote count in Florida to ensure George W. Bush’s “election,” Times executives resisted calls from lower-level editors to join in a media counting of the discarded votes, only grumpily agreeing to take part.

However, when that vote count was completed in November 2001, the Times executives decided to misreport the findings, which revealed that if all legal votes in Florida had been counted Al Gore would have won (because the so-called “over-votes” – when a voter both marks and writes in the same name – broke heavily for Gore and are legal under Florida law which is based on the clear intent of the voter).

You might have thought that the obvious lede would be that the wrong guy was in the White House, but the 9/11 attacks had intervened between the start and the end of the media recount. So, the Times and other major news organizations buried their own findings so as not to undermine Bush’s authority amid a crisis. The big media focused on various hypotheticals of partial counts that still had Bush “winning.”

While one might sympathize with the Times’ reasons for misleading the public, what the Times did was not journalism, nor was it a case of treating the American citizens as the true sovereigns of the nation who have a right to know the truth. It was a case of protecting the legitimacy of the Establishment. Those of us who noted the actual vote tabulations were dismissed as “conspiracy theorists,” though we were not.

[For the details of how a full Florida recount would have given Gore the White House, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Gore’s Victory,” “So Bush Did Steal the White House,” and “Bush v. Gore’s Dark American Decade.”]

Rationalizing War

So, when we got to Bush’s plans for invading Iraq in 2002, the Times had already shown its commitment to play ball with whatever the government was saying, no matter how dubious the claims. And, even the humiliation of having been caught publishing a false story about aluminum tubes being evidence of Iraq reconstituting its nuclear weapons program didn’t get the Times to change course.

Although one of the reporters on that story, Judy Miller, eventually did leave the newspaper (and landed on her feet at Fox News), the lead author, Michael Gordon, continued as the Times’ national security correspondent. Even more stunning, columnist Bill Keller, who wrote an influential article rallying “liberals” to the cause of invading Iraq, was elevated to the top job of executive editor after his Iraq gullibility had been exposed.

Even in the rare moments when the Times claimed it was standing up to the Bush administration, such as publishing James Risen’s article in December 2005 exposing the warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the reality was not exactly a new chapter in Profiles in Courage.

It turned out that the Times had been sitting on Risen’s story for more than a year – it could have been published before the 2004 election – but Bush demanded the story’s suppression. The information was finally shared with the public in late 2005 only because Risen’s book, State of War, was scheduled for publication in January 2006 and included the disclosure, a prospective embarrassment for the Times.

The pattern of the Times bowing down to the White House continued into the Obama administration. Whenever there has been a dubious claim that the U.S. government directs against some foreign “adversary,” the Times dutifully takes the side of Official Washington, rather than applying the objectivity and impartiality that are supposed to be at the heart of U.S. journalism.

For instance, on Aug. 21, 2013, when a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria, killed several hundred people, the Times simply fell in line behind the U.S.-driven rush to judgment blaming the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

There were immediate reasons to doubt that conclusion – Assad had just invited in United Nations inspectors to investigate cases of Syrian jihadists using chemical weapons – but the Times and other major Western outlets simply fingered the already demonized Assad.

Though we now know that U.S. intelligence analysts did not consider Assad’s guilt a “slam dunk” – and later key elements of the case against Assad collapsed, such as the Times’ miscalculation of the maximum range of the sarin-laden rocket – the Assad-did-it stampede almost led to a major U.S. military retaliation against what now appears to have been the wrong people.

Current evidence points to a likely provocation by radical jihadists trying to trick the West into entering the war in a big way on their side, but the Times has never fully retracted its false claim that the rocket was fired from a Syrian military base, which was four times outside the rocket’s range.

Indeed, to this day, Times’ columnists and other Western journalists routinely cite Assad’s guilt – and President Obama’s supposed failure to enforce his “red line” against chemical attacks – as flat fact.

The MH-17 Case

There has been a similar lack of skepticism toward the propaganda case that has been built around the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine killing 298 people. We saw another rush to judgment, this time blaming ethnic Russian rebels and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but there were problems with that claim from the start.

I was told by a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts that their evidence pointed to a rogue element of the Ukrainian military under the direction of a hard-line, anti-Russian Ukrainian oligarch with the hoped-for goal of shooting down Putin’s plane returning from a state visit to South America. According to this account, MH-17 just became the substitute target.

But the international investigation was put under the effective control of Ukraine’s unsavory SBU intelligence service, although technically called “Dutch-led.” As the Joint Investigation Team’s own progress report noted this year, the inquiry relied both on the Ukrainian government’s hospitality and “evidence” supplied by the SBU, which has been implicated in concealing Ukrainian torture centers. Far from objective, the investigation became part of the West’s anti-Russian propaganda war.

So, when the JIT issued its initial findings in September 2016, skepticism should have been in order. Indeed, there wasn’t really a “report” as such, more a brief summary accompanied by several videos that used computer-generated graphics and cryptic telephone intercepts, provided by the SBU, to create the impression of Russian guilt.

A critical examination of the material revealed that the inquiry ignored evidence that went against the desired conclusion, including intercepts revealing that a Ukrainian convoy was pressing deep inside what was called “rebel-controlled” territory, an important point because it showed that a Ukrainian missile battery could have traveled eastward toward the alleged firing point since rebel forces were mostly massed to the north fighting a government offensive.

The alleged route of the supposed Russian Buk battery also made no sense because there was a much more direct and discreet route from the Russian border to the alleged firing location in the southeast than the circuitous wandering all the way west to Donetsk before backtracking to the east. But the SBU-dominated investigation needed to explain why all the “social media” photos showed a Buk battery traveling east toward Russia, not westward from Russia.

And, there was the JIT’s silence on a Dutch intelligence report from October 2015 saying that the only powerful anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, were under the control of the Ukrainian military. Plus, the supposed firing location for the alleged purpose of protecting rebel fighters operating far to the north made no sense from a tactical perspective either. Placing a Buk battery far to the southeast would not help shoot down Ukraine’s military planes firing missiles into the rebel lines.

Indeed, much of the evidence fit better with what I had been told, second-hand, from those U.S. intelligence analysts – because any scheme to shoot down Putin’s plane would need the deniability that would come from pushing the battery as far into “rebel-controlled” territory as possible so as to manage the political fallout by creating a cover story that Putin was killed by his own supporters. The same cover story also would work for killing the passengers on MH-17 and blaming it on Russia.

But whatever you might think about who was responsible for the MH-17 atrocity — and I agree that the mystery has not been solved — the job of a professional news organization is to examine skeptically the various accounts and the available pieces of evidence, not just embrace the “official” version. But that is what the Times has done regarding MH-17 and pretty much every other case.

Concealing History            

The Times’ journalistic negligence does not only affect current issues of war and peace, but how the American people understand their recent history. In effect, the false “group thinks” – accepted by the Times – have a long after-life of decay contaminating the public’s thinking whenever the Times recycles a bogus account as historical narrative.

For instance, in a recent summary of “October Surprise” cases, the Times misled its readers on two of the most important incidents, 1968 and 1980.

Regarding the election of 1968 between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey, the evidence is now overwhelming that Nixon’s operatives went behind President Lyndon Johnson’s back to sabotage the Paris peace talks that Johnson felt could end the Vietnam War, a development that also would likely have helped fellow Democrat Humphrey.

That evidence now includes declassified FBI wiretaps of Nixon’s conspirators and Johnson’s own taped phone conversations – as well as various admissions and other corroborations from participants – but the Times has always turned up its nose toward this important story. So, the history doesn’t exist in New York Times World.

Thus, when the Times addressed this 1968 episode in a Nov. 1, 2016 review of past “October Surprise” cases – in the context of FBI Director James Comey telling Congress that the FBI had reopened its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails – the Times offered this summary:

“President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced a halt to bombing of North Vietnam, based on his claim that peace talks had ‘entered a new and a very much more hopeful phase,’ and he invited the government of South Vietnam and the Viet Cong to take part in negotiations. Raising hopes that the war might end soon, the announcement appeared to bolster the standing in the polls of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, the Democratic presidential nominee, but Humphrey still fell short in the election against former Vice President Richard M. Nixon, the Republican.”

In other words, the Times treated Johnson’s bombing halt and claim of peace-talk progress as the “October Surprise” to try to influence the election in favor of Humphrey. But the evidence now is clear that a peace agreement was within reach and that the “October Surprise” was Nixon’s sabotage of the negotiations by persuading South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu to boycott the Paris meeting.

The Times got the story upside-down and inside-out by failing to reexamine this case in light of convincing evidence now available in the declassified record. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “LBJ’s ‘X-File’ on Nixon’s ‘Treason’” and “The Heinous Crime Behind Watergate.”]

Reagan’s Victory

The Times botched the 1980 “October Surprise” case even worse. The currently available evidence supports the case that Ronald Reagan’s campaign – mostly through its director (and future CIA Director) William Casey and its vice presidential nominee (and former CIA Director) George H.W. Bush – went behind President Jimmy Carter’s back and undermined his negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

Carter’s failure became a central factor in his repudiation for reelection and a core reason for Reagan’s landslide victory – that also carried the Republicans to control of the U.S. Senate. But the later congressional investigation into the 1980 October Surprise case – a follow-on to the Iran-Contra scandal which exposed the Reagan-Bush secret dealings with Iran – was stymied in 1992.

Naively, the inquiry trusted President George H.W. Bush’s administration to collect the evidence and provide the witnesses for what would amount to Bush’s political suicide. Documents from Bush’s presidential library reveal that his White House quickly set out to “kill/spike this story” in order to protect his reelection chances.

For instance, a memo by one of Bush’s lawyers revealed that the White House had received confirmation of a key October Surprise allegation – a secret trip by Casey to Madrid – but then withheld that information from congressional investigators. Documents also show the White House frustrating attempts to interview a key witness.

After I discovered the Madrid confirmation several years ago – and sent the document to former Rep. Lee Hamilton, who had headed the House inquiry which concluded that there was no credible evidence supporting the allegations – he was stunned by the apparent betrayal of his trust.

“The [Bush-41] White House did not notify us that he [Casey] did make the trip” to Madrid, Hamilton told me in an interview. Asked if knowledge that Casey had traveled to Madrid might have changed the investigation’s dismissive October Surprise conclusion, Hamilton said yes, because the question of the Madrid trip was central to the inquiry.

So, a great deal is now known about the 1980 October Surprise case since the Times accepted the misguided conclusion of Hamilton’s inquiry. But none of that is reflected in how the Times recounted the history in its review of past October Surprise cases:

“The Republican nominee, Ronald Reagan, and his aides repeatedly warned that President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, would try an October surprise, probably in the form of winning the release of American hostages held for more than a year in Iran. The Reagan campaign’s frequent use of the term helped popularize it. Some people have since charged that Reagan aides actually tried to prevent a hostage release before the election, through back-channel communications with Iran, a claim that has been widely refuted. The hostages were freed in January 1981 — on the day Reagan was inaugurated.”

Yet, rather than being “widely refuted,” the most recent evidence tends to confirm the allegations that have been made by some two dozen witnesses including a detailed account of the Reagan campaign’s interference by then-Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr. But the Times seems more interested in reinforcing the false conventional wisdom than informing the American people.

[For details, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative or Trick or Treason: The 1980 October Surprise Mystery or Consortiumnews.com’s “Second Thoughts on October Surprise.”]

Crazy Deflategate

Even on more trivial matters, the Times simply can’t escape its pattern of accepting the word from the powerful, even when those powers-that-be are as disreputable as the executives of the National Football League.

When the NFL decided to accuse New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady of cheating in a bizarre scheme to slightly deflate footballs in the January 2015 AFC Championship game, the Times again showed no skepticism despite the flimsiness of the accusations as well as the absence of any direct evidence — and the official denials from Brady (under oath) and two equipment employees.

The so-called Deflategate case was also marred by the sloppiness of the halftime measurements of the footballs and the ignorance of many NFL executives about the laws of physics and how weather affects the internal air pressure of footballs, as determined by the Ideal Gas Law.

But the “scandal” took on a life of its own with the NFL leaking exaggerations about the discrepancies in the initial air-pressure measurements and false claims about the proper air pressure in the footballs of the other team, the Indianapolis Colts (the one accurate gauge, used by the NFL officials, showed that the Colts’ footballs were underinflated for both the first half and second half).

Eventually, even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recognized many of the flaws in the case as he concluded that the only game where the footballs could have been deflated was the AFC Championship game when the Patriots’ ball boy carried the footballs to the field unattended (rather than the normal practice of being accompanied by an official) and stopped briefly in a bathroom.

But this NFL conspiracy theory – that the ball boy used his bathroom break to slightly deflate footballs rather than urinating as he claimed – made no sense because the only reason the ball boy ended up unattended was because the preceding NFC Championship game had gone into overtime and the NFL decided to delay the start of the AFC game so the public could see both games.

The sudden-death ending of the NFC game caused confusion among the officials and the ball boy took it upon himself to take the balls to the field.

To suggest that Brady somehow anticipated that series of unlikely events so a tiny bit of air could be removed from the footballs, which would have no discernible effect except to make the balls travel slightly slower and thus easier to defend, is absurd on its face.

But the NFL would have lost face by admitting that it had acted so absurdly – and rival owners saw a chance to damage the Patriots’ ability to compete – so the Deflategate story moved on with Brady suspended for four games and the Patriots stripped of two valuable draft choices.

A Puff Piece

While you might say that this “scandal” surely didn’t deserve the attention that it got (and you’d be right), the Times, which treated the NFL claims as fact, didn’t let go even after Brady dropped his appeals and accepted his four-game suspension.

The Times devoted 2½ pages on Sept. 25, 2016, to a puff piece by correspondent John Branch about the “Deflategate Scientists” from the corporate-friendly science firm, Exponent, which was hired by the NFL to produce the “science” to justify Brady’s punishment.

Though Exponent discovered that all or virtually all the air-pressure drop could be attributable to the cold, wet weather on the night of the game (and the imprecise process of the halftime measurements further muddled the picture), Exponent still composed some scientific-sounding jargon to give the NFL the cover that it needed to go after Brady.

The firm said, “we conclude that within the range of game characteristics most likely to have occurred on Game Day, we have identified no set of credible environmental or physical factors that completely accounts for the additional loss of air pressure exhibited by the Patriots game balls as compared to the loss in air pressure exhibited by the Colts game balls.”

But Exponent’s phrasing obscured the fact that an innocent explanation did exist on Exponent’s range of measurements though the firm ruled it out by applying “accepted error margins” and fudging the facts around the sequence of the football testing at halftime (a key point because in a warmer environment, the air pressure would rise naturally).

Armed with Exponent’s phrasing, NFL investigators then took some unrelated text messages from the two equipment employees describing how NFL officials had over-inflated footballs in a prior game to claim they had the “smoking gun” regarding a plot to under-inflate footballs.

However, rather than show any skepticism about this “evidence” and the larger absurdity of the Deflategate claims, the Times simply treated the NFL’s case as solid and fawned over Exponent as if it were a temple of noble scientists seeking nothing but the truth. The Times dismissed critics who cited the firm’s reputation as a hired-gun to give powerful industries useful conclusions, such as disparaging the danger from second-hand cigarette smoke.

Instead of any serious journalism examining Deflategate’s logical flaws and Exponent’s dubious role in the scandal-mongering, the Times presented Exponent as the real martyrs in the case, reporting “Exponent still receives emails from adamant critics, and its role in Deflategate has cost it several prospective clients, the company said.”

A Troubling Pattern

Granted, the Deflategate silliness is minor compared to other cases when the Times misrepresented key chapters of U.S. history, concealed government wrongdoing and generated propaganda used to justify wars. But all these examples point to a pattern of journalistic behavior that is not journalistic.

Today’s Times is not the brave newspaper that published the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the Vietnam War. It is no longer the place where a Seymour Hersh could expose the CIA’s “crown jewels” of scandals or where a Raymond Bonner could reveal massacres of civilians by U.S.-backed militaries in Central America.

Not that those earlier days were by any means perfect – and not that there isn’t some quality journalism that still appears in the newspaper – but it is hard to imagine the Times today going against the grain in any significant or consistent way.

Instead, the Times has become an apologist for the powerful, conveying to its readers and to the world a dangerous and dubious insistence that the Establishment knows best.

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




NYT Admits Key Al Qaeda Role in Aleppo

Exclusive: In a backhand way, The New York Times admits that the U.S.-backed “moderate” rebels in east Aleppo are fighting alongside Al Qaeda jihadists, an almost casual admission of this long-obscured reality, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

As much as The New York Times and the mainstream U.S. media have become propaganda outlets on most foreign policy issues, like the one-sided coverage of the bloody Syrian war, sometimes the truth seeps through in on-the-ground reporting by correspondents, even ones who usually are pushing the “propo.”

Such was the case with Anne Barnard’s new reporting from inside west Aleppo, the major portion of the city which is in government hands and copes with regular terror rocket and mortar attacks from rebel-held east Aleppo where Al Qaeda militants and U.S.-armed-and-funded “moderate” rebels fight side-by-side.

Almost in passing, Barnard’s article on Sunday acknowledged the rarely admitted reality of the Al Qaeda/”moderate” rebel collaboration, which puts the United States into a de facto alliance with Al Qaeda terrorists and their jihadist allies, fighting under banners such as Nusra Front (recently renamed Syria Conquest Front) and Ahrar al-Sham.

Barnard also finally puts the blame for preventing civilians in east Aleppo from escaping the fighting on a rebel policy of keeping them in harm’s way rather than letting them transit through “humanitarian corridors” to safety. Some of her earlier pro-rebel accounts suggested that it wasn’t clear who was stopping movement of civilians through those corridors.

However, on Sunday, she reported: “We had arrived at a critical moment, as Russia said there was only one day left to pass through a corridor it had provided for people to escape eastern Aleppo before the rebel side was flattened, a corridor through which precious few had passed. The government says rebels are preventing civilians from leaving. Rebels refuse any evacuation without international supervision and a broader deal to deliver humanitarian aid.”

Granted, you still have to read between the lines, but at least there is the acknowledgement that rebels are refusing civilian evacuations under the current conditions. How that is different from Islamic State terrorists in Mosul, Iraq, preventing departures from their areas – a practice which the Times and other U.S. outlets condemn as using women and children as “human shields” – isn’t addressed. But Barnard’s crimped admission is at least a start.

Barnard then writes: “Instead [of allowing civilians to move through the humanitarian corridors], they [the rebels] are trying to break the siege, with Qaeda-linked groups and those backed by the United States working together — the opposite of what Russia has demanded.”

Again, that isn’t the clearest description of the situation, which is stunning enough that one might have expected it in the lede rather than buried deep inside the story, but it is significant that the Times is recognizing that Al Qaeda and the U.S.-backed “moderates” are “working together” and that Russia opposes that collaboration.

She also noted that “Three Qaeda-linked suicide bombers attacked a military position with explosive-packed personnel carriers on Thursday, military officials said, and mortar fire was raining on neighborhoods that until now had been relatively safe. It was among the most intense rounds in four years of rebel shelling that officials say has killed 11,000 civilians.”

While she then throws in a caveat about the impossibility of verifying the numbers, the acknowledgement that the U.S.-backed “moderate” rebels and their Al Qaeda comrades have been shelling civilians in west Aleppo is significant, too. Before this, all the American people heard was the other side, from rebel-held east Aleppo, about the human suffering there, often conveyed by “activists” with video cameras who have depicted the conflict as simply the willful killing of children by the evil Syrian government and the even more evil Russians.

More Balance

With the admission of rebel terror attacks on civilians in west Aleppo, the picture finally is put into more balance. The Al Qaeda and U.S.-backed rebels have been killing thousands of civilians in government-controlled areas and the Syrian military and its Russian allies have struck back only to be condemned for committing “war crimes.”

Though the human toll in both sides of Aleppo is tragic, we have seen comparable situations before – in which the U.S. government has supported, supplied and encouraged governments to mount fierce offensives to silence rockets or mortars fired by rebels toward civilian areas.

For instance, senior U.S. government officials, including President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, have defended Israel’s right to defend itself from rockets fired from inside Gaza even though those missiles rarely kill anyone. Yet, Israel is allowed to bomb the near-defenseless people of Gaza at will, killing thousands including the four little boys blown apart in July 2014 while playing on a beach during the last round of what the Israelis call “mowing the grass.”

In the context of those deaths, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who has built her career as a supposed humanitarian advocating a “responsibility to protect” civilians, laid the blame not on the Israeli military but on fighters in Gaza who had fired rockets that rarely hit anything besides sand.

At the United Nations on July 18, 2014, Power said, President Obama spoke with [Israeli] Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning to reaffirm the United States’ strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself…. Hamas’ attacks are unacceptable and would be unacceptable to any member state of the United Nations. Israel has the right to defend its citizens and prevent these attacks.”

But that universal right apparently does not extend to Syria where U.S.-supplied rockets are fired into civilian neighborhoods of west Aleppo. In that case, Power and other U.S. officials apply an entirely different set of standards. Any Syrian or Russian destruction of east Aleppo with the goal of suppressing that rocket fire becomes a “war crime.”

Perhaps it’s expected that the U.S. government, like other governments, will engage in hypocrisy regarding affairs of state: one set of rules for U.S. allies and another for countries marked for U.S. “regime change.” Statements by supposed “humanitarians” – such as Samantha Power, “Ms. R2P” – are no exception.

But double standards are even more distasteful when they come from allegedly “objective” journalists such as those who work at The New York Times, The Washington Post and other prestige American news outlets. When they take the “U.S. side” in a dispute and become crude propagandists, they encourage the kind of misguided “group thinks” that led to the criminal Iraq War and other disastrous “regime change” projects over the past two decades.

Yet, that is what we normally see. A thoughtful reader can’t peruse the international reporting of the U.S. mainstream media without realizing that it is corrupted by propaganda from both government officials and from U.S.-funded operations, often disguised as “human rights activists” or “citizen journalists” whose supposed independence makes their “propo” even more effective.

So, it’s worth noting those rare occasions when The New York Times and the rest of the MSM let some of the reality peek through. When evaluating the latest plans from Hillary Clinton and other interventionists to expand the U.S. military intervention in Syria – via prettily named “safe zones” and “no-fly zones” – the American people should realize that they are being asked to come to the aid of Al Qaeda.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The De Facto US/Al Qaeda Alliance.”]

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