Western Propaganda for a New Cold War

Western propaganda portrays Russia as the aggressor and NATO as the victim, but the reality looks almost opposite from the ground level, Rick Sterling found on a recent fact-finding trip.

By Rick Sterling

Recently I went on a 15-day visit to Russia organized by the Center for Citizen Initiatives. The group visited Moscow, the Crimean peninsula, Krasnodar (southern Russia) and St. Petersburg. In each location we met many locals and heard diverse viewpoints.

CCI has a long history promoting friendship and trying to overcome false assumptions between citizens of the USA and Russia. The founder Sharon Tennison has focused on making people-to-people connections including the business community, Rotary clubs, etc. This delegation was organized because of concern about escalating international tensions and the danger of a drift toward world threatening military conflict.

We were in Russia in late June as Russians were commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. They call it the Great Patriotic War where 27 million Soviet citizens died. In Russia it’s a very sober occasion in which they pay tribute to the fallen, acknowledge the heroes and underscore the horrors of war. Virtually everyone in Russia lost family members in World War Two and there seems to be a deep understanding of what war and invasion mean.

It is alarming to see the constant drumbeat in Western media that Russia is “aggressive,” that Russia “invaded” Crimea, Russia is “a threat.” Hardly a day goes by that The New York Times does not have an editorial or news story with the assertion or insinuation that Russia is “aggressive”.

Thursday’s op-ed by Andrew Foxall is an example. A director of the neocon Henry Jackson Society think tank, Foxall bemoans the British departure from the European Union and suggests, without evidence, that Russian President Putin may be behind it:

“Mr. Putin has spent the past 16 years trying to destabilize the West. … After Brexit, the union has lost not only one of its most capable members, but also one of its two nuclear powers and one of its two seats at the United Nations Security Council. … Mr. Putin checked the European Union’s expansion when he invaded Ukraine in 2014. The Continent’s security order is now in a perilous plight: If Mr. Putin senses weakness, he will be tempted into further aggression.”

It is now common to hear the claim that Russia “invaded” Ukraine and is “occupying” Crimea. The U.S. and its European allies have imposed sanctions on Russia because of Crimea’s decision – supported by a referendum with nearly 90 percent participation and a 96 percent favorable vote – to separate from Ukraine and rejoin Russia.

Because of the sanctions, tourist cruise ships no longer stop at Crimean ports and international airlines are prohibited from flying directly to the international airport at the Crimean capital, Simferopol. Students from Crimean universities cannot transfer their academic credits to universities internationally.

Despite the sanctions and problems, Crimea appears to be doing reasonably well. In the past two years, the airport has been rebuilt and modernized. The streets of Balaclava, Sevastopol, Simferopol and Yalta are busy and bright. No doubt things could be much better and residents want the sanctions lifted, but there were no evident signs of shortages or poverty.

On the contrary, kids were enjoying ice cream, parks were full and streets busy late into the night. The famous Artek Youth Camp near Yalta is being refurbished with new dormitories, state of the art swimming pool and gymnasium. Right now they are handling 3,000 youth in the camp at one time with 30,000 kids from all over Russia this year.

A 12-mile bridge connecting Crimea to southern Russia is now half complete. A impressive video showing the design is here.

What Provoked Crimea?

After 22 years as part of independent Ukraine following the breakup of the Soviet Union, what drove the people of Crimea to overwhelmingly support a referendum calling for “re-unification” with Russia? Was this the result of intimidation or an “occupation” by Russia?

We received a very strong sense from talking with many different people in Crimea that they are happy with their decision. The impetus was not aggression from Russia; the impetus came from the violence and ultra-nationalism of the foreign-backed coup in Ukraine overthrowing the democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, who was strongly supported by Crimea’s voters.

U.S.-supported protests against Ukraine’s Yanukovych government began in November 2013 in the “Maidan” (central square) in Kiev. Protesters included right-wing nationalist and Nazi sympathizers hostile to the Yanukovych government. A significant faction in the Maidan glorified the Ukrainian Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.

The U.S. was deeply involved in promoting the “Maidan” protests and strategizing how to bring a new government to power. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland demanded the Yanukovych government do nothing to stop or prevent the increasing vandalism, attacks and intimidation. With thugs in the street increasingly clashing with police, U.S. officials pressed the Ukrainian government to break economic ties with Russia as a condition for closer relations with Europe and loans from the International Monetary Fund.

On the surface, the U.S. was encouraging Ukraine to strengthen ties with the European Union but in reality Nuland’s goals were about expanding NATO and undermining Russia. This was dramatically revealed in a secretly recorded phone call between Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

Nuland and Pyatt discussed who should and should not be in the coup government two weeks before the coup happened. As they conspired over the phone, Nuland expressed her displeasure with the European Union’s reluctance to push the coup. “Fuck the E.U.,” Nuland said.

When the audio recording of Nuland and Pyatt discussing how to “midwife” the Kiev coup was revealed, the State Department’s spokesperson was grilled about it. She responded “That’s what diplomats do.”

Six weeks before the phone call – at a conference of U.S.-Ukrainian business leaders sponsored by Chevron – Nuland spoke glowingly of Ukraine’s “European aspirations” and the U.S. investment in promoting “democracy” in Ukraine.

In that Dec. 13, 2013 speech, Nuland said “Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991 the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance, all of which are preconditions for Ukraine to achieve its European aspirations. We have invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals.” (approximately 7:30 into the recording of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation conference).

In mid-December 2013, hundreds of Crimeans traveled to Kiev in buses to join peaceful protests in opposition to the Maidan protests seen on television. They stayed in Kiev through January and into February until the violence exploded on Feb. 18, 2014. Altogether, 82 persons were killed including 13 police and 1,100 injured.

At that point, the Crimeans decided peaceful protest was useless and to return home. The bus caravan departed Kiev on Feb 20 but was stopped at night near the town of Korsun. The buses were torched and the Crimean travelers brutalized, beaten and seven killed. When news of this reached Crimea, it was yet another cause for alarm.

A video titled “The Crimes of Euromaidan Nazis” documents the events and includes interviews with numerous passengers. These atrocities against unarmed Crimeans were committed on a public highway with no intervention from local Ukrainian police.

Rejecting Compromise

On Feb 21, the Yanukovych reached a compromise brokered by three European governments, calling for reduced presidential powers and early elections so Ukrainians would have the opportunity to elect a new leader. But those concessions did not appease the most violent Maidan protesters or their supporters. A parliamentarian was beaten in broad daylight and threats issued.

President Yanukovych fled for his life and a new government, led by Victoria Nuland’s choice Arseniy Yatsenyuk, took charge. The U.S. and its Western allies quickly recognized the new government as “legitimate” while Russia objected to it as an illegal coup. In the first days of the new government, a bill was passed to make Ukrainian the sole official language of the country despite the fact that many Ukrainians speak Russian.

Indeed, there was aggression and violence in Ukraine but it was not from Russia. Rather, the evidence shows that the violence was instigated by the forces that led the coup. This was revealed in an intercepted phone conversation between British representative to the European Union, Catherine Ashton, and the Estonian Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet.

Paet reported that he had been to Kiev and “there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.” Ashton responded, “Oh gosh …. We will need to look into that” and quickly moved on. Nearly 2½ years later, the post-coup regime in Kiev has failed to conduct a serious investigation into the sniper attacks.

While this history is largely ignored by the U.S. and Western media – The New York Times won’t even admit that there was a “coup” – the reality is well known in Crimea and other ethnic Russian areas of Ukraine. Crimeans whom we spoke with described their shock and outrage at the events that unfolded in the winter of 2013-14.

In just four months they witnessed violent Maidan protests, the overthrow of the elected government, beatings and killings of citizens returning from Kiev, and then a parliamentary vote to remove Russian as an official language.

In response, local leaders recommended a Crimea wide referendum with the option to officially re-unite with the country that Crimea had been part of for over two centuries. A referendum was held on March 16. Turnout was 89 percent with 96 percent voting in favor of the “reunification of Crimea with Russia.”

With the violent overthrow of the Kiev government and clear proof of U.S. involvement in the coup, it seems highly inaccurate to say that Russia “invaded” or is “occupying” Crimea. (Russian troops were already stationed in Crimea as part of the lease agreement for the Sevastopol naval base.) On the contrary, it seems to be the U.S. and its allies were the “aggressive” ones.

The same reversal of reality is going on with the expansion of NATO. In recent weeks, NATO has placed armed forces in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania while complaining about Russia engaging in threatening military deployments inside Russia.

NATO military expenses are already 13 times greater than that of Russia yet NATO plans to increase military spending even more. Meanwhile the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002 and is busy building and installing ABM sites in Alaska and now Eastern Europe. With a serious face, U.S. officials have previously claimed these sites are being installed because of the danger of “Iranian missiles” but only a fool could take that seriously.

There is the additional risk that the same sites could be converted from anti-ballistic missiles to contain nuclear warheads.

Are NATO and the U.S. preparing for war? The public should be asking hard questions to our political and military leaders as they waste our tax dollars and risk global conflagration. And, enough of the nonsense about Russian “aggression” when the evidence indicates it’s the U.S. and its allies that are destabilizing other countries, escalating a new arms race and promoting conflict instead of diplomacy.

Rick Sterling is an independent writer/researcher. He can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com

NFL’s Crazy Conspiracy Theory Prevails

Exclusive: The lesson of the absurd “Deflategate” case is that a powerful institution like the NFL can ride roughshod over almost anyone, including quarterback Tom Brady, regardless of what the facts and logic are, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

By getting a favorable ruling from a management-friendly federal appeals court in New York, the National Football League has won what may be a decisive round in its bizarre “Deflategate” campaign to brand quarterback Tom Brady a perjurer and a cheater and to hobble the New England Patriots by stripping them of two draft picks and suspending Brady for a quarter of the season.

But there is a bigger message in this long-running, silly saga, which may have come to an endpoint on Wednesday when the full U.S. Court of Appeals in New York refused to rehear arguments. The case against Brady is a microcosm of how a powerful institution can override logic, reality and fairness to punish an individual – even one with more-than-average means to defend himself – and how limited the checks and balances are in the modern United States.

Based on the NFL’s own depiction, here is the essence of its conspiracy theory: Before the AFC Championship game on Jan. 18, 2015, Brady conspired with two locker-room employees to have one of them insist to the officials that the Patriots’ game balls be set at the lower legal limit of 12.5 pounds per square inch, but then took advantage of the fact that the NFC Championship game went into overtime (forcing a delay in the start of the AFC game) so he could carry the game balls down to the field unattended, slip into a bathroom and hastily release tiny amounts of air from the Patriots’ footballs, supposedly to give Brady some advantage (although the reduced air pressure would actually make the footballs slightly slower and easier to defend).

According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ruling in the case, the AFC Championship game was the only time the Patriots’ ball boy could have carried out this scheme because officials would have accompanied him down to the field at other Patriots’ home games.

This NFL’s charge against Brady took shape a year and a half ago after the Patriots’ opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, intercepted one of Brady’s passes in the first half of the AFC Championship game and found the ball to have a PSI below the 12.5 PSI legal limit. The NFL officials then used two gauges to test all the Patriots’ game balls (and a few Colts’ balls) during halftime and found all the Patriots’ balls below 12.5 PSI (as well as the Colts balls on the gauge that was determined to be the more accurate one).

Some NFL source then leaked the fact that the Patriots balls were under-inflated and falsely claimed that the Colts’ balls were all properly inflated, touching off a classic media firestorm with a rush to judgment that Brady and the Patriots were guilty of intentionally doctoring the footballs to gain an unfair advantage.

The Brady-is-a-cheater storyline became so entrenched – and it had such a value to the other 31 NFL teams because they would get an edge over the Patriots if Brady were suspended and his team lost draft picks – that it subsequently didn’t matter what the evidence actually showed or didn’t show.

It later was acknowledged that none of the NFL officials who checked the footballs understood the physics involved. Since the game was played on a cold and rainy night in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the football air pressure would naturally decline by about the amounts shown on the gauges, according to the Ideal Gas Law, which has been around for nearly two centuries. Even the NFL’s own hired-gun scientific firm, Exponent, concluded that all or virtually all of the PSI change could be explained by the lower temperatures alone.

Also, after the Deflategate conspiracy theory first was spun, Brady and the two locker-room employees, Jim McNally (the ball boy) and his immediate superior John Jastremski, repeatedly denied participating in any such scheme. Brady did so under oath. And the NFL presented no direct evidence to contradict their denials.

Circumstantial ‘Evidence’

The best the NFL could do was argue that theoretically a little bit of the PSI decline could have come from tampering and cited some circumstantial evidence that looked suspicious. For instance, NFL lawyers noted that McNally stopped in a bathroom for one minute and 40 seconds while carrying the ball bags to the field on Jan. 18, 2015.

McNally said he was simply relieving himself because he wouldn’t have another chance until halftime, but the NFL made much of him saying he used a “urinal” when there was only a “toilet” in the bathroom (although how that was relevant is hard to understand, since McNally – whether he was deflating footballs or urinating – would have seen the toilet).

Because the Patriots voluntarily turned over to the NFL the cell phone text messages between McNally and Jastremski, the league’s lawyers also took a few exchanges out of context and made them seem incriminating, such as a back-and-forth discussion about how NFL officials had overinflated the footballs in an earlier game against the New York Jets.

Again, how that was relevant to an alleged scheme to under-inflate footballs was not clear. Indeed, those text messages would tend to deflate the “Deflategate” conspiracy theory because – if the deflation scheme had predated the AFC Championship game – you would have assumed that Jastremski would have chastised McNally for failing to ensure that the balls were under-inflated, rather than allow them to be overinflated. Yet, there was no such discussion.

But the underlying absurdity of the NFL’s conspiracy theory is revealed by the chronology of events on Jan. 18, 2015, which Goodell indicated was the one time when McNally took footballs unattended to the field. But Goodell didn’t say why that was allowed – and therein lay the weakness of the NFL’s case.

The reason that McNally was able to carry the balls without an official accompanying him was because the NFC Championship game had gone into overtime and the NFL thus postponed the start of the AFC Championship game so the entirety of both games could be shown on TV.

When the NFC game ended in a sudden-death score by the Seattle Seahawks, there was haste and confusion in the referee lounge about getting everything needed down to the Patriots’ field so the AFC game could commence. McNally said he thought he was just doing his part by carrying the bags of game balls down to the field rather than waiting to be escorted.

So, while McNally’s explanation made sense – as did his reason for ducking into a bathroom – the NFL’s conspiracy theory rested on the notion that somehow Brady, Jastremski and McNally had anticipated the NFC game would go into overtime, realized that would cause a delay in the start of the AFC game, and knew there would be confusion among the officials once the NFC game ended so McNally could sneak the footballs into a bathroom and release very small amounts of air.

That Brady and his “co-conspirators” would have anticipated that extremely unlikely scenario makes no sense. Nor did the supposed motive for going to all that trouble to gain some hard-to-explain advantage of having the Patriots footballs made a tiny bit softer and a tiny bit slower.

The Real Conspiracy

But there does seem to be a real conspiracy in this story, just not the one that the NFL dreamt up. Rather than let the whole ridiculous matter drop or acknowledge that the evidence was too weak to judge Brady guilty, the other NFL owners saw an opportunity to hobble the Patriots and thus give their own teams a competitive edge over a powerful rival.nfl-logo

While serving as the supposedly impartial arbiter hearing Brady’s NFL appeal of his four-game suspension, Goodell allowed the owners of other teams to weigh in regarding how he should view the evidence of the case, according to his own admission.

In his ruling against Brady, Goodell disclosed that the Management Council, consisting of some of the league’s most powerful owners, urged him to view the absence of the two locker-room employees at the appeal hearing as proof of Brady’s guilt (even though the employees had testified repeatedly in other venues and had consistently denied tampering with the game balls).

It might be noted here that the Management Council controls Goodell’s $35 million salary.

Occasionally, too, this interference by the rival owners has snuck into media accounts. ESPN beat reporter Mike Reiss included one item deep inside a notebook-style report that Goodell might want to finally drop the matter except that his hands had been tied by the rival owners.

“I think Goodell would do it if that’s what 31 other ownership groups wanted, but it was clear as a possible settlement was recently explored behind the scenes that the majority of owners want the full penalty for Brady and the Patriots. Goodell is following their lead,” Reiss reported.

In other words, Goodell’s claim that he is protecting the “integrity of the game” by punishing Brady and the Patriots is hypocritical at best. In reality, he appears to be violating the integrity of the game by using a bizarre conspiracy theory to reduce the competitiveness of one dominant team.

Though normally I cover government-related topics, one reason that I have written about this case is because I have seen this pattern repeat itself again and again. When a powerful entity wants to impose its judgment on a weaker one, the powerful entity – often relying on clever lawyers and exploiting media allies – almost always carries the day.

When there is such a power disparity, pretty much anything can be turned into anything, a process that corrupts public confidence in the system and breeds a profound cynicism among citizens who witness how evidence and logic can be twisted this way or that.

In the “Deflategate” case, the distortions have extended into the news media where, for instance, ESPN, which has a multi-billion-dollar relationship with the NFL, has essentially ignored the findings of many reputable scientists who disputed the NFL’s scientific claims.

ESPN’s “Sport Science” did do a segment showing how miniscule the effect would be from a slight reduction in pounds per square inch of a football (mostly negative by making the footballs slower and easier for defenders to reach).

But ESPN’s investigative unit “E:60” only dealt with the scientific PSI dispute earlier this year in a cute segment showing how a seventh-grader named Ben Goodell (no relation to Roger) won a science-fair prize by demonstrating that weather conditions explained the drop in the footballs’ internal pressure.

NFL Wins Ruling

However, the decision by the full federal Appeals Court in Manhattan on Wednesday not to review the case means that the substance of “Deflategate” will likely never be fully examined in a court of law. Previous hearings – by a District Court judge and a three-judge Appeals Court panel – have focused on the sweeping authority that the NFL commissioner has over disciplinary matters.

District Judge Richard Berman found in Brady’s favor but his ruling was overturned by a 2-1 vote in the Appeals Court. The full Appeals Court then declined to hear the case despite an appeal motion written by prominent attorney Theodore Olson.

The motion condemned “Goodell’s biased, agenda-driven, and self-approving ‘appeal’ ruling,” noting that Goodell had altered the reasons and logic for punishing Brady, thus denying Brady his legal rights. Olson noted, too, that the NFL officials didn’t know the physics of footballs.

“As NFL officials later admitted, no one involved understood that environmental factors alone — such as the cold and rainy weather during the game — could cause significant deflation,” the filing said. “Nor did any NFL official claim that the underinflated balls affected the game’s outcome, particularly since Brady’s performance in the second half of the AFC Championship Game — after the Patriots game balls were re-inflated — improved.” (The Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 and then went on to win the Super Bowl.)

But Brady’s lawyers and the seventh-grader with his science project weren’t the only ones to recognize the weakness of the NFL’s grasp of physics. In support of Brady’s request for a rehearing, a legal brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals by 21 professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of California, Berkeley; University of Michigan; Stanford University; University of Southern California; University of Delaware; Purdue University; University of Pennsylvania; Boston College; and the University of Minnesota.

Noting that deflation happens naturally whenever a ball is moved from a warm to a cold environment, the scientists said, “This is not tampering. It is science. And it pervades the NFL. Games routinely are played with footballs that fall below the league’s minimum pressure requirement.” (Yet, none of those quarterbacks and teams are accused of cheating.)

But the NFL, which managed to get the case before a management-friendly court in New York, showed again that science and reason have a declining place in American life. As much as we may like Hollywood movies that end with some wrong being righted by a court or a congressional committee or a big newspaper, the reality is usually quite different.

When power and truth clash, power almost always wins.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “NFL’s War against Facts and Reason”; “A Deflategate Slap-down of NFL, MSM”; “The Tom Brady Railroad”; and “Tom Brady and Theoretical Crime.”]

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).

Iraq War, an Unaccountable Crime

Britain’s Chilcot report recalled the Iraq War lies that justified an aggressive war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, but this international crime has largely been sloughed off with almost no accountability, as Eric S. Margolis noted.

By Eric S. Margolis

Last week’s Chilcot report on Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq was as polite and guarded as a proper English tea party. No direct accusations, no talk of war crimes by then Prime Minister Tony Blair or his guiding light, President George W. Bush. But still pretty damning.

Such government reports and commissions, as was wittily noted in the delightful program “Yes, Prime Minister,” are designed to obscure rather than reveal the truth and bury awkward facts in mountains of paper. And beneath mountains of lies.

The biggest lie on both sides of the Atlantic was that the invasion and destruction of Iraq was the result of “faulty intelligence.” The Bush and Blair camps and the U.S. and British media keep pushing this absurd line.

This writer, who had covered Iraq since 1976, was one of the first to assert that Baghdad had no so-called weapons of mass destruction, and no means of delivering them even if it did. For this I was dropped and black-listed by the leading U.S. TV cable news network and leading U.S. newspapers.

I had no love for the brutal Saddam Hussein, whose secret police threatened to hang me as a spy. But I could not abide the intense war propaganda coming from Washington and London, served up by the servile, mendacious U.S. and British media. The planned invasion of Iraq was not about nuclear weapons or democracy, as Bush claimed.

Two powerful factions in Washington were beating the war drums: ardently pro-Israel neoconservatives who yearned to see an enemy of Israel destroyed, and a cabal of conservative oil men and imperialists around Vice President Dick Cheney who sought to grab Iraq’s huge oil reserves at a time they believed oil was running out. They engineered the Iraq War, as blatant and illegal an aggression as Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939.

Britain’s smarmy Tony Blair tagged along with the war boosters in hopes that the U.K. could pick up the crumbs from the invasion and reassert its former economic and political power in the Arab world. Blair had long been a favorite of British neoconservatives. The silver-tongued Blair became point man for the war in preference to the tongue-twisted, stumbling George Bush. But the real warlord was VP Dick Cheney.

There was no “flawed intelligence.” There were intelligence agencies bullied into reporting a fake narrative to suit their political masters. And a lot of fake reports concocted by our Mideast allies like Israel and Kuwait.

After the even mild Chilcot report, Blair’s reputation is in tatters, as it should be. How such an intelligent, worldly man could have allowed himself to be led around by the doltish, swaggering Bush is hard to fathom.

Europe’s leaders and Canada refused to join the Anglo-American aggression. France, which warned Bush of the disaster he would inflict, was slandered and smeared by U.S. Republicans as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” In the event, the real monkeys were the Bush and Blair governments.

Saddam Hussain, a former U.S. ally, was deposed and lynched. Iraq, the most advanced Arab nation, was almost totally destroyed. Up to one million Iraqis may have been killed, though the Chilcot report claimed only a risible 150,000.

As Saddam had predicted, the Bush-Blair invasion opened the gates of hell, and out came Al Qaeda and then ISIS. The U.S. and British media, supposedly the bulwark of democracy, rolled over and  became an organ of government war propaganda. Blair had the august BBC purged for failing to fully support his drive for war. BBC has never recovered.

Interestingly, last week’s news of the Chilcot investigation was buried deep inside The New York Times on Thursday. The Times was a key partisan of the war. So too the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and the big TV networks. Without their shameful connivance, the Iraq War might not have happened.

Bush and Blair have the deaths of nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers on their heads, the devastation of Iraq, our $1 trillion war, the ever-expanding mess in the Mideast, and the violence what we wrongly blame on  “terrorism” and so-called “radical Islam.”

The men and women responsible for this biggest disaster in our era should be brought to account. As long as Bush and Blair swan around and collect speaking fees, we have no right to lecture other nations, including Russia and China, on how to run a democracy or rule of law.  Bush and Blair should be facing trial for war crime at the Hague Court.

Eric S. Margolis was a contributing editor to the Toronto Sun chain of newspapers, writing mainly about the Middle East, South Asia and Islam. He contributes to the Huffington Post and appears frequently on Canadian television broadcasts. Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2016. [Re-posted with the author’s permission.]

NATO Reaffirms Its Bogus Russia Narrative

Exclusive: President Obama and NATO leaders signed on to the false narrative of a minding-its-own-business West getting sucker-punched by a bunch of Russian meanies, a storyline that suggests insanity or lies, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

It’s unnerving to realize that the NATO alliance – bristling with an unprecedented array of weapons including a vast nuclear arsenal – has lost its collective mind. Perhaps it’s more reassuring to think that NATO simply feels compelled to publicly embrace its deceptive “strategic communications” so gullible Western citizens will be kept believing its lies are truth.

But here were the leaders of major Western “democracies” lining up to endorse a Warsaw Summit Communiqué condemning “Russia’s aggressive actions” while knowing that these claims were unsupported by their own intelligence agencies.

The leaders – at least the key ones – know that there is no credible intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked the Ukraine crisis in 2014 or that he has any plans to invade the Baltic states, despite the fact that nearly every “important person” in Official Washington and other Western capitals declares the opposite of this to be reality.

But there have been a few moments when the truth has surfaced. For instance, in the days leading up to the just-completed NATO summit in Warsaw, General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, divulged that the deployment of NATO military battalions in the Baltic states was a political, rather than military, act.

“It is not the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against broad-scale Russian aggression, because such aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing,” Pavel told a news conference.

What Pavel blurted out was what I have been told by intelligence sources over the past two-plus years – that the endless drumbeat of Western media reports about “Russian aggression” results from a clever demonization campaign against Putin and a classic Washington “group think” rather than from a careful intelligence analysis.

Ironically, however, just days after the release of the British Chilcot report documenting how a similar propaganda campaign led the world into the disastrous Iraq War – with its deadly consequences still reverberating through a destabilized Mideast and into an unnerved Europe – NATO reenacts the basic failure of that earlier catastrophe, except now upping the ante into a confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

The Warsaw communiqué – signed by leaders including President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron – ignores the reality of what happened in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014 and thus generates an inside-out narrative.

Instead of reprising the West’s vacuous propaganda themes, Obama and the other leaders could have done something novel and told the truth, but that apparently is outside their operating capabilities. So they all signed on to the dangerous lie.

What Really Happened

The real narrative based on actual facts would have acknowledged that it was the West, not Russia, that instigated the Ukraine crisis by engineering the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych and the imposition of a new Western-oriented regime hostile to Moscow and Ukraine’s ethnic Russians.

In late 2013, it was the European Union that was pushing an economic association agreement with Ukraine, which included the International Monetary Fund’s demands for imposing harsh austerity on Ukraine’s already suffering population. Political and propaganda support for the E.U. plan was financed, in part, by the U.S. government through such agencies as the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

When Yanukovych recoiled at the IMF’s terms and opted for a more generous $15 billion aid package from Putin, the U.S. government threw its public support behind mass demonstrations aimed at overthrowing Yanukovych and replacing him with a new regime that would sign the E.U. agreement and accept the IMF’s demands.

As the crisis deepened in early 2014, Putin was focused on the Sochi Winter Olympics, particularly the threat of terrorist attacks on the games. No evidence has been presented that Putin was secretly trying to foment the Ukraine crisis. Indeed, all the evidence is that Putin was trying to protect the status quo, support the elected president and avert a worse crisis.

It would be insane to suggest that Putin somehow orchestrated the E.U.’s destabilizing attempt to pull Ukraine into the association agreement, that he then stage-managed the anti-Yanukovych violence of the Maidan protests, that he collaborated with neo-Nazi and other ultra-nationalist militias to kill Ukrainian police and chase Yanukovych from Kiev, and that he then arranged for Yanukovych to be replaced by a wildly anti-Russian regime – all while pretending to do the opposite of all these things.

In the real world, the narrative was quite different: Moscow supported Yanukovych’s efforts to reach a political compromise, including a European-brokered agreement for early elections and reduced presidential powers. Yet, despite those concessions, neo-Nazi militias surged to the front of the U.S.-backed protests on Feb. 22, 2014, forcing Yanukovych and many of his officials to run for their lives. The U.S. State Department quickly recognized the coup regime as “legitimate” as did other NATO allies.

On a personal note, I am sometimes criticized by conspiracy theorists for not accepting their fact-free claims about nefarious schemes supposedly dreamed up by U.S. officials, but frankly as baseless as some of those wacky stories can be, they sound sensible when compared with the West’s loony conspiracy theory about Putin choreographing the Ukraine coup.

Yet, that baseless conspiracy theory roped in supposedly serious thinkers, such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who conjured up the notion that Putin stirred up this trouble so he could pull off a land grab and/or distract Russians from their economic problems.

“Delusions of easy winnings still happen,” Krugman wrote in a 2014 column. “It’s only a guess, but it seems likely that Vladimir Putin thought that he could overthrow Ukraine’s government, or at least seize a large chunk of its territory, on the cheap, a bit of deniable aid to the rebels, and it would fall into his lap. …

“Recently Justin Fox of the Harvard Business Review suggested that the roots of the Ukraine crisis may lie in the faltering performance of the Russian economy. As he noted, Mr. Putin’s hold on power partly reflects a long run of rapid economic growth. But Russian growth has been sputtering, and you could argue that the Putin regime needed a distraction.”

Midwifing This Thing

Or, rather than “a guess,” Krugman could have looked at the actual facts, such as the work of neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland conspiring to organize a coup that would put her hand-picked Ukrainians in charge of Russia’s neighbor. Several weeks before the putsch, Nuland was caught plotting the “regime change” in an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.

Regarding who should replace Yanukovych, Nuland’s choice was Arseniy “Yats is the guy” Yatsenyuk. The phone call went on to muse about how they could “glue this thing” and “midwife this thing.” After the coup was glued or midwifed on Feb. 22, 2014, Yatsenyuk emerged as the new prime minister and then shepherded through the IMF austerity plan.

Since the coup regime in Kiev also took provocative steps against the ethnic Russians, such as the parliament voting to ban Russian as an official language and allowing neo-Nazi extremists to slaughter anti-coup protesters, ethnic Russian resistance arose in the east and south. That shouldn’t have been much of a surprise since eastern Ukraine had been Yanukovych’s political base and stood to lose the most from Ukraine’s economic orientation toward Europe and reduced economic ties to Russia.

Yet, instead of recognizing the understandable concerns of the eastern Ukrainians, the Western media portrayed the ethnic Russians as simply Putin’s pawns with no minds of their own. The U.S.-backed regime in Kiev launched what was called an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against them, spearheaded by the neo-Nazi militias.

In Crimea – another area heavily populated with ethnic Russians and with a long history of association with Russia – voters opted by 96 percent in a referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a process supported by Russian troops stationed in Crimea under a prior agreement with Ukraine’s government.

There was no Russian “invasion,” as The New York Times and other mainstream U.S. news outlets claimed. The Russian troops were already in Crimea assigned to Russia’s historic Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol. Putin agreed to Crimea’s annexation partly out of fear that the naval base would otherwise fall into NATO’s hands and pose a strategic threat to Russia.

But the key point regarding the crazy Western conspiracy theory about Putin provoking the crisis so he could seize territory or distract Russians from economic troubles is that Putin only annexed Crimea because of the ouster of Yanukovych and the installation of a Russia-hating regime in Kiev. If Yanukovych had not been overthrown, there is no reason to think that Putin would have done anything regarding Crimea or Ukraine.

Yet, once the false narrative got rolling, there was no stopping it. The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading Western publications played the same role that they did during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, accepting the U.S. government’s propaganda as fact and marginalizing the few independent journalists who dared go against the grain.

Though Obama, Merkel and other key leaders know how deceptive the Western propaganda has been, they have become captives to their governments’ own lies. For them to deviate substantially from the Official Story would open them to harsh criticism from the powerful neoconservatives and their allied media outlets.

Even a slight contradiction to NATO’s “strategic communications” brought down harsh criticism on German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after he said: “What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering. … Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken.”

Excoriating Russia

So, at the Warsaw conference, the false NATO narrative had to be reaffirmed — and it was. The communiqué declared, “Russia’s aggressive actions, including provocative military activities in the periphery of NATO territory and its demonstrated willingness to attain political goals by the threat and use of force, are a source of regional instability, fundamentally challenge the Alliance, have damaged Euro-Atlantic security, and threaten our long-standing goal of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. …

“Russia’s destabilising actions and policies include: the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise and which we call on Russia to reverse; the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Document, and provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean; its irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace.

“In addition, Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and its use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean have posed further risks and challenges for the security of Allies and others.”

In the up-is-down world that NATO and other Western agencies now inhabit, Russia’s military maneuvers within it own borders in reaction to NATO maneuvers along Russia’s borders are “provocative.” So, too, is Russia’s support for the internationally recognized government of Syria, which is under attack from Islamic terrorists and other armed rebels supported by the West’s Mideast allies, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO member Turkey.

In other words, it is entirely all right for NATO and its members to invade countries at will, including Iraq, Libya and Syria, and subvert others as happened in Ukraine and is still happening in Syria. But it is impermissible for any government outside of NATO to respond or even defend itself. To do so amounts to a provocation against NATO – and such hypocrisy is accepted by the West’s mainstream news media as the way that the world was meant to be.

And those of us who dare point out the lies and double standards must be “Moscow stooges,” just as those of us who dared question the Iraq WMD tales were dismissed as “Saddam apologists” in 2003.

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

A Modest Proposal: An Irish AIPAC

Noting the remarkable success of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in influencing U.S. government policies, Daniel C. Maguire offers up this tongue-in-cheek plan for an Irish AIPAC to do the same for Ireland.

By Daniel C. Maguire

This is to announce the formation of the Irish AIPAC — American Irish Public Affairs Committee. The purpose of this Committee will be (borrowing from the Israeli AIPAC) to make sure that “there is no daylight between” Ireland’s perceived needs and American policies.

Irish Americans, all 35 million of them, should be ashamed of themselves. They sing the songs of Ireland and dance its dances but their bibulous love of Ireland has never been organized to help Ireland in its hours of need.

Poor Ireland suffered years of foreign occupation — with part of their Island-state still tied to Britain. In the artificially imposed “famine” in 1845-1852, a million Irish people died and 25 percent of the population went into exile, many dying on the way, and the remainder all suffering from malnutrition.

It was not just the potato blight: England was actually exporting food from Ireland during this pseudo-famine. This was the Irish Holocaust. And now deceptive Irish bankers have hamstrung the “Celtic tiger,” the boom went bust, and Ireland is linked to a tottering European Union. Now is the time for all Irish-Americans to come to the aid of poor Ireland.

Irish organizing skills are unfairly disparaged. One foreign diplomat said cynically that if the Dutch took over Ireland, they would turn it into a garden; if the Irish took over Holland, they would drown.

Be that as it may, help is available. The Israeli AIPAC, formed in 1954, shows the way. With only five million American Jews to work on it, Israel has become the equivalent of “the fifty-first state of the union.” In fact, Israel is the luckiest of the states since it pays no taxes but has received from the U.S. Treasury at least $130 billion since 1949.

Israel is still the prime recipient of American foreign aid, over $10 million a day. George Ball estimated that when all aid is calculated, U.S. support of Israel comes to $11 billion a year. So, Ireland gets only $2 million a year in U.S. aid, while Israel gets $10 million a day. That is a disgrace and it is the fault of Irish-Americans who must now set out to correct that by making Ireland the equivalent of the 52nd state.

Learning from the Best

Here is the Action Plan for the Irish AIPAC:

Target One: Congress:

As soon as someone is elected to Congress, he/she will immediately be visited by members of the Irish lobby. Generous monies will be promised to them (funneled through wealthy Irish-American groups to keep it looking legal). The Irish lobby, like the Israeli lobby, must not be stinting in their generosity.

The Foreign Policy Journal reports that in the 2015-2016 U.S. presidential race, Israeli-related monies gushed forth. Hillary Clinton reportedly got $212,927; Sen. Ted Cruz, $203,552; Sen. Lindsey Graham, $74,200, and of course all of these politicians promised full and fervid support for whatever Israel says it wants along with a red carpet into the White House.

Surely big-hearted Irish groups can match this. Without saying it out loud, the Irish goal must be to make Congress the best Congress that Irish money can buy. Again, without saying it out loud, the Irish lobby must set out to make Congress Irish-occupied territory. History shows this can be done.

Of course, it also must be made clear to members of Congress that pro-Ireland monies will go to their opponents if they do not faithfully support all of Ireland’s alleged needs. On an incessant basis, the Irish lobby will tell the members exactly what those needs are.

The Irish lobby can point to foolish politicians like Paul Findley, Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney who dared to resist the Israeli AIPAC. They were ousted from Congress as AIPAC arranged crucial financial support for their political opponents. The concerns of Israel trumped whatever petty concerns their American constituents had.

The ghosts of these ousted members hover over Congress whenever Israel-related votes come up. The Irish lobby must match this kind of muscular zeal. Ireland deserves no less.

Efforts will be made to get Irish loyalists appointed to all the congressional staffs so that it will be clear to members of Congress that the Irish AIPAC is watching their every move. Should the Executive Branch ever waver in its support of Ireland, Congress will be pressed to invite the Prime Minister of Ireland to address a joint session of Congress to upbraid the American president for his disloyalty to Ireland.

And when the Irish Prime Minister speaks to Congress, the Irish AIPAC will be in the galleries recording how many times various members leaped to their feet to applaud the Irish leader.

Again, the Israeli lobby shows the way: former Jewish member of the Israeli Knesset Uri Avnery said that when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Congress, members vie with one another to applaud “jumping up and down like yo-yos.” (This is actually good exercise for the all too sedentary members of Congress.)

When the Irish AIPAC has its annual meeting, attendance and unctuous obeisance by members of Congress and the administration will be de rigueur.

Countering Turbulence

Now all of this Irish political power might be resented by small-minded bigots. Such people must be sharply labeled as “anti-Irish.” They must be portrayed as the residue of ugly historical anti-Irish prejudice, as the hateful echoes of an era when signs were posted on American factories: “IRISH NEED NOT APPLY.”

The mantle of victimhood — there is no suffering like Irish suffering — must veil the rise of Irish power. If dissident Irish-Americans groups form — sort of an Irish Voice For Peace — to protest Irish abuses of power here and in Ireland, they must be labeled “self-hating Irish” and dismissed.

Target Two: The Press

Anyone who joins the editorial staff of any news media will never be lonely. Members of the Irish AIPAC will visit them before they have arranged the furniture in their new office. They will be taken to lunch, put on Irish AIPAC mailing lists, and gently reminded of the strength of Irish influence in the zone in which they work and seek advertising.

We should be grateful to the Israeli AIPAC for showing how effective this can be in muting criticism of any mischief or criminality going on in Israel. Even the liberals at MSNBC know where not to tread when it touches on Israel. Palestinian travails are terra incognita for them and for the mainstream American media.

(Sadly, the Israelis have not been as successful at quelling the liberal press in Israel which dares at times to speak boldly to Zionist criminal use of power. Ironically it is easier to criticize Israeli occupation policy in Israel than it is in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Kudos to the Israeli AIPAC!)

The Irish AIPAC must never forget: a subservient press is an AIPAC’s best friend.

Goal Three: ‘Wink and a Nod’ Privileges:

It has been said that all nations are brigands, sinning boldly as they pursue their tribal interests. If their sins get noticed, this could turn off the faucets of aid. Jewish writer Tony Judt called the United States “Israel’s paymaster.” Suppose the paymaster got really mad at something you are doing, like violating international law, for example, by doing a little ethnic cleansing and land theft — things like that. This is where the special relationship has to get really, really special. So special that your crimes are ignored by the donor state.

This is a case of “love means never having to say you’re sorry” raised to the level of statecraft.  This is the “wink and a nod” privilege that wipes out guilt and punishment.

Now holy Ireland is a very Catholic state. The Preamble of its Constitution begins: “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority…” It goes on to “humbly” acknowledge all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ…”

Now suppose this Catholic state decided that only Catholics are full-fledged citizens and that Jews, Muslims and Protestants are second-class citizens with very limited voting, traveling, land-purchasing and water-using rights. That would be so un-American it would surely turn off the flow of American cash and political support to Ireland — thus defeating the whole purpose of the Irish AIPAC!

Again, Israel comes to the rescue.  In the warm and exonerating American embrace that Israel enjoys — and Ireland aspires to — its sins, be they scarlet, will be made white as snow. The donor looks away and the donations proceed without abatement.

The Israeli success in this regard must be applauded. You will search history in vain to find an example of so many offenses being ignored, forgiven, and systematically and insistently forgotten. Why would the Irish Catholics worry if all they did was crack down on the civil and human rights of a few Jews and Protestants?

After all, on June 8, 1967, during the Six Days War, to prevent surveillance of their huge military land seizure, Israel attacked an American intelligence-gathering ship, the USS Liberty, killing 34 American sailors and wounding 171 of them. The record is clear: it was not, as claimed, a “mistake.” Former CIA officer Ray McGovern reports the following recorded exchange between a horrified Israeli pilot and Israeli headquarters:

Israeli pilot to ground control: “This is an American ship.  Do you still want us to attack?”

Ground Control: “Yes, follow orders.”

Pilot: “But, sir, it’s an American ship; I can see the flag.

Ground Control. “Never mind. Hit it.”

Nothing like it had happened since Pearl Harbor, but the American response was a wink and a nod to Israel’s government. As former Undersecretary of State George Ball said: “If American leaders did not have the courage to punish Israel for the blatant murder of American citizens, it seems clear that their America friends would let them get away with almost anything.”

And so indeed it has come to pass. On March 16, 2003 a 23-year old American citizen, Rachel Corrie, as part of a nonviolent group working in Gaza trying to prevent Israeli forces from destroying water wells and homes … yes, water wells and homes. Corrie saw an American-made Israeli bulldozer moving to destroy the home of the Nasrallah family, consisting of two brothers, their wives and five children.

Corrie was wearing an orange flak jacket and speaking through a bull horn. She mounted a pile of dirt, looking right into the cabin at the two drivers of the Caterpillar bulldozer. Her companions surrounded her screaming. The Caterpillar bulldozer, with an Israeli armed car in attendance, ran over her. Twice. She died in the arms of Alice Coy, a Jewish member of her group from England.

Again, a wink and a nod from the cowed American government.

Another American citizen was murdered on the high seas on May 30, 2010, by the Israelis on an unarmed flotilla trying to bring medical aid to a Gaza under siege. Eight Turkish citizens were killed, too, and Turkey responded appropriately and vigorously. From the U.S., another wee wink and another wee nod.

So, if in this special relationship the murder of Americans does not compute morally why would Americans be upset by the Agricultural Settlement Law of 1967 that banned non-Jewish Israelis from working on Jewish National Fund lands, i.e. on over 80 percent of the land in Israel? Why take note of laws that prohibit the sale or leasing of state-owned land to non-Jews, or keeping 80 percent of drinking water for Jews in the West Bank and allowing polluted water to much of Gaza – or arresting Palestinian children to keep their parents from protesting the ongoing theft of land, called euphemistically “settlements”? To all of this, a wink and a nod and the never-ending flow of American aid.

And then, of course, there is the United Nations and its pesky Security Council Resolutions. One of the reasons cited to launch a war against Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s resistance to a Security Council resolution. Israel is the world record holder in violating Security Council Resolutions having done so nearly 40 times. No other country is close. (Two other U.S. allies – Turkey and Morocco – hold down second and third place, respectively.)

That is a bit of an embarrassment for the United States but our loyalty is made of stern stuff and so we can tut-tuttingly ignore this bad habit of our Israeli “ally.” We can also ignore the thousand Americans who volunteer to fight in the Israeli army in violation of the Neutrality Act which forbids citizens engaging in military action against nations with whom we are at peace. That also violates Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution which says only Congress can send Americans off to war. But what are such petty scruples among friends.

But, hold on! Preferential status imports still other privileges. When enemies like Saddam Hussein and ISIS pose a direct or proximate threat to Israel, the United States will send forces thousands of miles to fight and die, but will graciously allow Israel not to join the “coalition of the willing.”

Puny-minded critics call this unfair since Israel is the number one recipient of American aid, with the fourth strongest military force in the world and the sixth in nuclear power. Such carping critics are guilty of underestimating American generosity to its beneficiaries and of being naive about Israel’s need to use its military power to enforce the occupation and siege in Palestine.  Occupied people are notoriously uncooperative. It’s enough to keep an army busy.

The Missing ‘Irish Vote’

A question: Is it unfair and even “anti-Semitic” to say that there is a reliable pro-Israel “Jewish vote” that is the underbelly of AIPAC’s political power? Some people think there is such a Jewish voting bloc. Golda Meir thought so. In 1956, Meir insisted that a planned war of expansion should occur before the American November election. President Eisenhower, she said, would probably do nothing “because of the Jewish vote.” She was right.

Eisenhower noted that “there are 5 million Jewish voters in the U.S. and very few Arabs.” He assumed those Jewish American voters would vote Israel’s interests. Eisenhower thought of using force to stop the Israeli advances in Sinai but concluded, “Then I’d lose the election.  There would go New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, at least.” He definitely thought there was a Jewish vote firmly bonded to Israel’s warring interests.

Even earlier, when President Truman was asked why he was alienating Arabs by supporting the Zionist takeover of Palestine he replied: “I am sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism; I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.” He did not doubt there was an American Jewish vote in lock-step with the Zionist project in Palestine.

Eisenhower’s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles resented Israeli pressure in Washington but succumbed to “the paid advertisements, the mass meetings, the resolutions, the demands of Zionist organizations, the veiled threat of domestic political reprisal”, i.e., the American Jewish vote.

This concern over “the Jewish vote” has not evanesced in contemporary American politics. Try to get concern for the human and civil rights of occupied Palestinians into the Democratic Party Platform and you will feel its full force.

Irish-American Neglect

Here is where Irish-Americans are again in scandalous default. Irish-American voting

patterns can indeed  be tracked, but, appallingly, they have nothing to do with Ireland. Irish-American voters seem distracted by American economic and political issues and are utterly indifferent to the needs of Ireland. As a result, presidents and Congress need never worry about an “Irish vote” when they discuss issues relating to Ireland.

Irish eyes should not be smiling at that lack of loyalty. The Irish AIPAC must change all that.

Let’s admit it: the Israeli AIPAC is the most effective and efficient lobby in modern political history. Never has control been extended over so many by so few. Still, it is not perfect. It is ignoring one resource that could make Israel more Jewish, more peaceful, more accepted and even admired by the world at large. That resource is Judaism, which, in my view, houses the most magnificent moral vision found in any world religion.

Early Israel sowed the seeds of modern democratic theory, envisioning a move away from one-percent Egyptian rule to the sharing society of Sinai, where there “shall be no poor among you” (Deut. 15:4) and where swords will be turned into plowshares. This thinking challenged the primacy of state kill-power. That’s the Judaism to which we are all in debt.

The demonic error that grips many Jews and non-Jews as well is to conflate Judaism with Zionism. Judaism is a 3,000-year-old moral treasure. Zionism is a Nineteenth Century form of hallucinatory theology.

Yes, Zionism is theology, not political science. It holds that the deity, believed to be the creator of heaven and earth including everything from fruit flies to quasars, was also into real estate redistribution. This deity insisted that Palestine is destined for Jews only, but, unfortunately, failed to define what  makes you a Jew – and that remains a vexed and open question.

Of Palestine, David Ben Gurion (a man of no known theological expertise) said: “God promised it to us.” Yitzhak Baer, the German-Israeli historian, wrote: “God gave to every nation its place, and to the Jews he gave Palestine.” All other residents of Palestine, even if they were there as a people for millennia, must be ousted with the remainder crushed by occupation and siege. That is Zionism. Sorry, Mr. Ben Gurion and Professor Baer; don’t you dare pin that Zionist rap on “God.”

Nothing could be less Jewish than Zionism. A truly Jewish Israel could be a paradigm for all nations as old Isaiah insisted it could be.

How Ireland Can Help Israel

Ireland is Catholic, right down to its Constitutional core, but it does not claim to be “a Catholic democracy” because that is as much an oxymoron as a Lutheran democracy or a Jewish democracy. Catholicism is at the center of Irish culture. It can be practiced, studied and celebrated, or rejected freely. But so too can Judaism, and Protestantism, and Islam.

Whatever frictions have occurred among religion groups – and sadly such frictions always do occur – Catholicism is not required for full-fledged Irish citizenship with all the rights thereunto appertaining.

When Yogi Berra heard that Robert Briscoe, a Jew, was twice elected Lord Mayor of Dublin (in 1956 and again in 1961) he famously replied: “Only in America!” No, Mr. Berra. Also in Ireland. Mr. Briscoe’s Jewishness did not deprive him of first-class citizenship in Ireland and the voters in Dublin knew that. At their core, neither Catholicism nor Judaism is inimical to a pluralistic democracy.

The Irish democracy where religion does not qualify you for citizenship can speak to the Israeli identity problem. Israel does not know what it is. It wants to be an oxymoronic “Jewish democracy” but it can’t be and it isn’t.

The distinguished Israeli Jewish professor Shlomo Sand, in a book first published in Hebrew, states it clearly: “Israel cannot be described as a democratic state while it sees itself as the state of the ‘Jewish people.’” That leaves out all the other people.

A former Israeli Brigadier General, writing in the Jerusalem Post puts it this way: “Is Israel a democracy? Maybe it is an oligarchy or an aristocracy or some sort of anarchistic monarchy.” Many see it as a theocracy. No surprise, given all the Zionist God-talk.

Catholicism is part of the Irish national identity but Ireland is still a bona fide democracy. Israel could be the place where Judaism could be practiced freely, studied, and revered. Scholars from other religions could see it as the best place to study Judaism and to look for the shared moral ground of all religions.

But they could also see Israel as a perfect place to study their own religions and to practice them freely without any diminution of their rights as citizens or as visitors in Israel. That is not the Israel of today.

The Great Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel understood the Jewish impulse to find a safe place to live but he worried that Israel would become alienated from Judaism. That, I aver, is precisely what has happened. The victims have become the victimizers. Gaza is the Warsaw ghetto, the West Bank, Golan Heights and Jerusalem are subdued and occupied by a Jewish Israeli Reich.

The Israeli AIPAC Converted to Judaism?

Realists would say that the Israeli AIPAC is inexorably wedded to an eternal war against Palestinians seeking relief from occupation and siege. This is senseless, and in an age where there are suitcase-size atomic weapons, it is also suicidal.

What a dream it would be if the highly skilled Israeli AIPAC could be converted to a force for peace. All it would have to do is to urge Israel to stop forgetting March 2002. That is when all 22 members of the Arab League offered to recognize Israel’s right to exist and have normal relations with Israel. This offer has since been repeatedly reconfirmed.

In April 2002, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which includes 57 nations, concurred with the Arab League offer, and the Iranian delegation expressed its full approval. The prerequisite was not to drive Israel into the sea. The only condition was Israel’s compliance with the United Nations Resolutions 194, 242, 338 and the return to the pre-1967 borders. They conceded the right for Israel to exist. Hamas has said it will acknowledge Israel’s right to live in peace within its pre-1967 borders.

Israel can have peace or expansion; it is currently choosing expansion. And that, in the words of the poet Yeats, is “a pity beyond all telling.”

Daniel C. Maguire is a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is author of A Moral Creed for All Christians and The Horrors We Bless: Rethinking the Just-War Legacy [Fortress Press]. He can be reached at daniel.maguire@marquette.edu


Clinton’s Disregard of Secrecy Laws

While admitting a “mistake,” Hillary Clinton was largely unrepentant about the FBI calling her “extremely careless” in safeguarding national security data, another sign of a troubling double standard, says ex-CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman.

By Melvin A. Goodman

There is a new poster child for the U.S. government’s double standard in dealing with violations of public policy and public trust — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will receive no punishment for her wanton disregard of U.S. laws and national security.

Clinton merely received a blistering rebuke from FBI Director James Comey, who charged her with “extremely careless” behavior in using private email servers to send and received classified information as well as using her personal cell phone in dealing with sensitive materials while traveling outside the United States.

Some of these communications referred to CIA operatives, which is a violation of a 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act to protect those individuals working overseas under cover.

A former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, received a 30-month jail sentence in 2014 for giving a journalist the name of a CIA operative, although the name never appeared in the media.  Kiriakou’s sentence was praised by CIA Director David Petraeus, who faced his own charges for providing sensitive materials to his biographer, who was also his mistress.

In denying facts in that case, Petraeus lied to FBI investigators, who wanted to confront the general with felony charges.  The Department of Justice reduced the matter to a single misdemeanor, and Petraeus received a modest fine that could be covered with a few of his speaking fees.

The treatment of Clinton is reminiscent of the handling of cases involving former CIA Director John Deutch and former national security adviser Samuel Berger. Deutch placed the most sensitive CIA operational materials on his home computer, which was also used to access pornographic sites.  Deutch was assessed a fine of $5,000, but received a pardon from President Bill Clinton before prosecutors could file the papers in federal court.

Berger, who served in Clinton’s administration, stuffed his pants with classified documents from the National Archives, and also received a modest fine. President George W. Bush’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez kept sensitive documents about the NSA’s surveillance program at his home, but received no punishment.

Another Double Standard

There is a similar double standard in dealing with the writings of CIA officials. Critical accounts get great scrutiny; praise for CIA actions is rewarded with easy approval.

A classic case involved the memoir of Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr., who destroyed over 90 CIA torture tapes and wrote a book that denied any torture and abuse took place. The Department of Justice concluded that it would not pursue criminal charges for the destruction of the videotapes, although it was clearly an act to obstruct justice.

A senior career lawyer at CIA, John Rizzo, who took part in decision-making for torture and abuse, received clearance for a book that defended CIA interrogation at its secret prisons or “black sites.”

In addition to the velvet glove approach for Rodriguez and Rizzo, the authors of the torture memoranda at the Department of Justice — John Yoo and Jay Bybee — received no punishment for providing legal cover for some but not all of the CIA’s torture techniques.

Even Yoo, now a faculty member at the University of California’s law school in Berkeley, conceded that CIA officers went beyond the letter of the authorization and should be held accountable. Meanwhile, Kiriakou, the first CIA officer to reveal the torture and abuse program, was convicted of disclosing classified information and sentenced.

A CIA colleague from the 1970s, Frank Snepp, wrote an important book on the chaotic U.S. withdrawal South Vietnam with unclassified information detailing the decisions and actions that left behind loyal Vietnamese. Snepp had to forfeit his considerable royalties because the book wasn’t submitted for the agency’s security review.

More recently, however, former CIA Director Leon Panetta presented his memoir to his publisher in 2013 without getting clearance from the CIA and only at the last minute — before the book’s distribution — did it receive a cursory review.

Former Director George Tenet received special treatment with his memoir, getting deputy director Michael Morell to intervene to reverse Publications Review Board decisions to redact sensitive classified materials from the director’s book.

All of these decisions point to a flawed and corrupt system that permits transgressions at the highest level of government, while the government pursues those at a lower level.

President Barack Obama’s legacy will include the fact that he irresponsibly used the Espionage Act of 1917 more often than all previous presidents over the past 100 years, and contributed to the demise of the Office of the Inspector General throughout the government, particularly at the CIA.

One of the key causes of the current hostility and cynicism toward politicians and the process of politics is the double standard at the highest levels of government.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism, and the forthcoming The Path to Dissent: A Whistleblower at CIA (City Lights Publishers, 2015).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org, where this story first appeared.

Europe’s NATO Ambivalence

The just-completed NATO summit repeated tiresome U.S. propaganda about “Russia’s aggressive actions” but some European leaders flinched at the heated rhetoric and warmongering, notes ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller

Most Americans unfailingly believe NATO generously serves the European Union’s interests. Yet many Europeans don’t see it that way. They fear that NATO actually undermines a balanced Europe. Is it NATO with the E.U.? Or NATO versus the E.U.?

The two organizations were created by different groups of states (albeit with significant crossover) for differing purposes and with differing goals; indeed, some might say partially incompatible goals.

The E.U. vision was to bring European peoples, states and countries — at bloody war among themselves for long centuries — to renounce war as an instrument to solve European problems, to find common cause, and to cooperate in a common economic endeavor. It is an exceptional aim — the first time in human history when multiple states have freely yielded up significant elements of national sovereignty in order to partake in a common project.

Yet the U.S. has always felt geopolitical ambivalence towards the E.U. Washington in principle applauded the ideal — a unified, peaceful and prosperous continent. But it also understood that the formation of the E.U. created a new counterweight that could hinder American ability to dominate politics on the European continent. For America, it was NATO that was a far more congenial and useful mechanism than the E.U.

NATO focused on Washington’s primary agenda — checking the Soviet Union in a global struggle. To the extent that the E.U. strengthened that goal, fine; but to the extent that the E.U. weakened European resolve to stand against Russia, it was much less desirable. NATO was America’s creature, the E.U. was not.

With the fall of the USSR, President George H.W. Bush (not “W”) gave verbal assurances to Russia that the West would not seek to capitalize on the Soviet collapse. With Russia’s astonishing acquiescence to the reunification of Germany, the U.S. gave assurances that there would be no NATO expansionism into former Soviet East Bloc states.

Needless to say, that promise was violated, and continues to be violated as neoconservative zealots in Washington seek to scoop up every small state on the Russian periphery and enlist them in the anti-Russian NATO cause (including Georgia, or the Ukraine, or Kyrgyzstan, or even Montenegro.)

NATO’s Reason for Continuing

The peaceful collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1991 also posed a difficult question: what would be the rationale for NATO’s continued existence? All organizations seek to perpetuate their own existence and NATO became almost desperate for a new mission — a new enemy. Washington was loath to yield up its key instrument of control in European politics.


But how much do European geopolitical goals mesh with American ones? This too depends on one’s geopolitical vision of the world. For Europe, war among its members is virtually unthinkable. But Washington and NATO have a vested interest in maintaining a Russian threat as the centerpiece of E.U. geopolitics.

Today the U.S., including virtually all of its mainstream media, adopt reflexive anti-Russian positions. In U.S.-sponsored parlance, Russian President Vladimir Putin now represents a “resurgent threat.” Indeed, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs incredibly informs Congress that Russia represents America’s number one existential threat. Aggressive NATO maneuvers at the very doorstep of Russia help make this a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The E.U. has far less desire for confrontation or gratuitous demonization of Moscow. It sees little benefit and much potential harm in it. Germany in particular, given its history, geopolitical vision, and location, certainly seeks a modus vivendi with Russia. Is such a modus vivendi against U.S. interests?

Many Europeans remain highly ambivalent about whether it is NATO, or the E.U., that better represents their own geopolitical concerns. NATO is at heart an American institution, the E.U. is not.  Indeed any real back-door influence the U.S. had in the E.U. came from the ever-loyal United Kingdom (which is why Brexit is such a disaster for the U.S. in Europe.)

And of course there are a number of small insecure neighbors living next to the Russian bear who will eternally champion U.S. intervention. Life next to any great power is never easy. But herding such states into the U.S. column is an unwise foreign policy strategy.

For Washington, even as the E.U.’s future falls into question, NATO is seen as the default, near-surrogate organization for keeping Europe together in some fashion. It can serve as both an instrument against Russia, or as an arm of U.S. global military outreach under the “multilateral cover” of NATO.

Washington is uncomfortable in watching the E.U., as an economic and political organization, work closely with Russia. Indeed Germany, given its location, history and power, will be the quintessential European interlocutor with Russia — and thus most likely the major voice of reason and balance in East-West relations.

Germany, more than any other European power, will also bear the brunt of any potential hostilities with Russia. That is why the German foreign minister himself made cautionary comments a few weeks ago that NATO’s largest ever military exercises off Poland since 1991 constituted provocative saber-rattling towards Russia.

Undermining the E.U.

In this sense, then, Washington’s geopolitical agenda has in fact served to undermine the E.U. Washington strongly urged the immediate inclusion of as many former states of the East Bloc as possible in the E.U., seeking to glue them into a hopefully more anti-Russian Western “bloc.”

But many European leaders had serious and sensible doubts about the appropriateness of E.U. membership for most of these states — and not on geopolitical grounds. Many lacked any democratic tradition, had disastrous economies, suffered serious corruption, bad governance, and were economic basket cases.

To encourage their economic development is one thing; indeed Russia acknowledges that it too can benefit from E.U. presence around Russia, as long as the E.U. was seen as an economic project and not a strategic security one.

The upshot of U.S. pressures was that E.U. membership expanded far too rapidly and prematurely; stringent conditions for admission to the E.U. were often softened in favor of American geopolitical goals.

And now, not surprisingly, many of these states now struggle to meet E.U. criteria; they import into Europe neo-fascist views, represent a net drain on the E.U., and often have little interest in adopting E.U. social and democratic values. For them war with Russia is actually quite thinkable. Especially after suffering under half a century of disastrous Soviet rule.

The E.U., sadly, could still conceivably collapse as a project. If so, it will not be because of Brexit as such. One key reason will be because E.U. expansion brought too many diverse states into a complex union arrangement. After all, even parts of the early E.U. “south” — Greece, Portugal or Spain, are still struggling to make it under E.U. rules. (And indeed, E.U. rules may need to be re-jiggered in the face of lessons-learned.)

Counterproductive Hostility

The hard question must be posed about whether Washington itself has not been pursuing a highly confrontational and aggressive set of policies against Moscow. In this context there is an important place for an independent European geopolitical, strategic and security policy.

Europe, however, approaches these issues very differently from Washington. Russia, as a significant (and bruised) great power, is still trying to find its place in the new post-Soviet geopolitical space. Russia needs to be tightly bound into diplomatic and organizational ties with the E.U. Indeed it seeks to be a partner in discussion of common legitimate issues of stability and economics in Eastern Europe.

Putin shows signs of great willingness to do so because Russia too can gain economically. Russia is not operating as a spoiler unless the E.U. adopts a hostile position towards Moscow.

Aggressive military posturing by NATO (“maintaining NATO credibility”) is not the way to go about creating a new European space.

Europe is basically quite capable of defending itself given its wealthy economies and technical know-how that even extends to weapons production. Europe does not need to be chivied up by Washington to develop a more “robust posture” towards Russia. It is Europe’s own future and they need to chart it themselves. The U.S. cannot operate as the anxious helicopter parent ready to intervene over European foreign policies.

Now, there is quite legitimate room for serious discussion about what Russia’s policies and intentions are towards Europe. But it must include serious and frank discussion of cause-and-effect in East-West tensions.

How much did talk of bringing Ukraine into NATO — taking with it what has for centuries been Russia’s sole warm water port in the Black Sea — spark Putin’s decision not to allow this naval and shipping base of extreme importance from being ceded to NATO? How would the U.S. react to threatened loss of its south-eastern ports to a hostile foreign power (or even the Panama Canal)?

How much did these unwise policies towards Ukraine, and the Western-sponsored coup against the elected (but incompetent) government of Ukraine, help trigger Putin’s response in destabilizing eastern Ukraine? Such issues require honest analysis.

Yet such searching and objective analysis of the sources of recent NATO-Russian confrontation is shockingly absent in most “responsible” media in the U.S., including in the persistently biased New York Times coverage of all things Russian.

How independent does Europe and the E.U. wish to be? How much is it willing to be dragged into the U.S. global strategic agenda with Washington’ preponderantly military approach to global issues?

Remarkably French President Francois Hollande remarked upon arriving at the just-completed NATO conference in Warsaw, Poland, “NATO has no role at all to be saying what Europe’s relations with Russia should be. For France, Russia is not an adversary, not a threat.”

It may well be time for the E.U. to consider again its own independent military force — a project to which the U.S. could contribute, but not control.

Is it not then legitimate to ask: aren’t we really talking about NATO versus the E.U. in this new strategic era?

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on 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

Russia Pushes Back on NATO Expansion

As NATO presses up to Russia’s borders – with secret schemes to influence and absorb unwilling populations – Russia has begun to push back, explaining the origins of the new Cold War, as Natylie Baldwin describes.

By Natylie Baldwin

Can Russian President Vladimir Putin turn the tables on NATO and the European Union in the Balkan states that are not yet members of the Atlanticist project? According to Filip Kovacevic, a political science professor who specializes in Russia and Eastern Europe, Putin has a plan. Some details were provided in an exclusive report in May on the nascent project by Russia to counter NATO expansion into the remaining Balkan countries that have not yet been swept into the Western alliance.

The plan has its origins in the grassroots movement that arose in the aftermath of the first Cold War, which called for non-alignment and cooperation with both East and West.  Kovacevic describes the movement as follows:

“Their members were generally young people who were enthusiastic, honest and genuinely committed to the public good, but were plagued by the lack of funding and faced with frequent media blackout and open discrimination. Nonetheless, their programs articulated the most promising and humane geopolitical vision for the Balkans.  They conceptualized the Balkans as a territorial bridge between the West and the East rather than as the place of persistent confrontation, or the ‘line of fire’ as formulated by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015. They wanted the Balkans to become a force for peace and human dignity in the world. Their vision still remains the best option for the Balkans people.”

This desire for non-alignment is understandable as a continuation of the policy of Tito’s Yugoslavia during the Cold War – the nation that several of the modern day Balkan states were a constituent part of.  However, according to Kovacevic, these groups were easily overwhelmed, in terms of both financial and propaganda resources, in the 1990s by pro-NATO forces in the West.

In addition to providing resources to build up pro-NATO sentiment in the media and NGO sectors of these countries, financial resources and pressure was used to sway a large number of politicians to favor NATO membership, often in opposition to the general population’s views. Some of the unsavory forms of incentive or pressure include what amounts to blackmail and bribery, Kovacevic told me in an email interview:

“This is a long-term process. In the U.S. intelligence community it is called ‘seeding.’ The intelligence scholar Roy Godson defines it as ‘identifying potential agents of influence’ at an early stage and then acting to advance their careers. This is typically done covertly, but there have been the historical examples of overt support. …

“In the Balkans, the key role in the process of ‘seeding’ was accomplished by various institutes, conferences, retreats, grants, etc. For instance, I was told by a confidential source who participated in the same U.S.-NATO program, the long-time foreign minister and one-time prime minister of Montenegro, Igor Luksic, was a product of such a process. Luksic was chosen as a very young man to attend various conferences and retreats in Brussels and Washington and, after that, his political career really took off. All the while, he promoted the NATO agenda in Montenegro, even though this went against the will of the majority of the population.

“Another example is Ranko Krivokapic who was the speaker of the Montenegrin Parliament for over a decade. He traveled on official business to the U.S. a few times every year and boasted to others that he had a lot of friends in the State Department and other institutions of the U.S. government. There are examples like these in Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, etc. All over the Balkans.”

There is also the fact the European Union has dovetailed its security arrangements to such an extent with NATO that new members are now virtually brought into the NATO structures by default. For example, Mahdi D. Nazemroaya, author of The Globalization of NATO, reports that the E.U.’s Security Strategy was absorbed into NATO during its annual summit in 2006. The emphasis of the summit was on securing energy resources with the goal of ‘co-managing the resources of the EU’s periphery from North Africa to the Caucuses.’ Also implied was the goal of redefining the E.U.’s security borders in synch with both Franco-German and Anglo-American economic and geopolitical interests.

Moreover, British Russia scholar Richard Sakwa, has pointed out that the security integration of the E.U. with NATO was further intensified with the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007:

“As for the comprehensive character, this is something that has been gaining in intensity in recent years as the foreign and security dimension of the E.U. has effectively merged with the Atlantic security community. The E.U.’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) since the Treaty of Lisbon (the “Reform Treaty”) of 13 December 2007, which came into effect in 2009, is now in substance part of an Atlantic system. Acceding countries are now required to align their defense and security policy with that of NATO, resulting in the effective ‘militarization’ of the E.U.”

At this point, the forces seeking a non-aligned bridge role for the Balkan states are still very much around, but have suffered marginalization due to lack of resources to take on the powerful and now entrenched pro-NATO political forces. However, with increasing discontent with the weak economic prospects in certain Balkan states, combined with increasing instability in the E.U., it is believed that there is an opening for growth of the movement.

Economic Conditions in the Balkans

The Balkan states comprise Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece.

In 2007, Romania and Bulgaria became E.U. members (three years after joining NATO). Romania’s GDP has barely kept up with its 2008 rate and has a general unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, which sounds reasonable until you look at the youth unemployment rate of 21 percent, which doesn’t bode well.

Bulgaria, on the other hand, is not part of the Eurozone and has not adopted the euro as its currency. Its economic prospects since joining the E.U. have not been impressive either. In the midst of the financial crisis of 2009, its GDP contracted by 5.5 percent, with a current unemployment rate of 7 percent and youth unemployment at 17 percent. Bulgaria is also recognized as one of the union’s most corrupt countries.

Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania are all in the process of E.U. integration, with a supposed approval rate of 80-90 percent among the respective populations of these countries (except for Serbia), despite the virtual rape of Greece and the lackluster performance of Romania and Bulgaria.

It should be noted that all three Balkan nations that are actual E.U. members have higher emigration than immigration rates, another indication that accession to the E.U. doesn’t necessarily translate into a prosperous future for the average person, particularly the young.

There is also the instability highlighted by the British people’s vote to leave the E.U., spurred by disgust with austerity measures imposed by unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels along with an influx of immigrants – one-third from these poorer E.U. nations – which adversely affect lower-wage natives.

Even if the E.U. had a better track record of effectiveness in terms of improving economic conditions for the masses, it would have a very tall order with some of the prospective Balkan states. Macedonia, for example, has an unemployment rate between 24 and 25 percent as of January 2016, although it has improved from the 2005 high of 37 percent. Despite this improvement, Macedonia still has one of the lowest GDPs in Europe and 72 percent of its citizens claimed they manage their household income only with “difficulty” or “great difficulty” in 2012.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is still feeling the effects of the war of 1992 to 1995 that included major physical destruction of infrastructure and the bottoming out of its GDP. It currently suffers an unemployment rate of 42-43 percent.

Kosovo, a state that owes its existence to a NATO intervention, has 33 percent unemployment, a high crime rate and increasing political violence due to ethnic tensions and a growing ultra-nationalist movement. The Council of Europe compared the government of Kosovo to a mafia state in a 2010 report which revealed trafficking in human organs as well as drugs and weapons throughout Eastern Europe, even implicating the then-prime minister in the operation.

Russia’s Opening

Kovacevic states that the Atlanticist project of E.U. austerity economics and the enabling of Washington’s destabilizing wars via NATO is starting to chip away at its popularity among Balkan populations. He also says Putin is prepared to take advantage of this opening and, since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, has turned his attention “to the Balkans with political force and funding not seen since the days of tsar Nicholas II.”

This attention has manifested in the Lovcen Declaration, which was signed on May 6, by members of Russia’s largest political party, United Russia, and the opposition Democratic People’s Party in Montenegro in the village of Njegusi. Kovacevic explains:

“One of the most powerful political figures in Montenegro, the metropolitan Amfilohije, the chief bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, was present at the signing and gave his blessing. Though in the past Amfilohije has been known to support the authoritarian and pro-NATO prime minister Milo Djukanovi? around the election time, he has always publicly opposed NATO membership and has given fiery speeches on its ‘evil nature’ to the point of accusing NATO for continuing Hitler’s anti-Slavic project.

“Even more importantly, Amfilohije’s involvement with the Lov?en declaration reveals one of the fundamental components of Putin’s overall geopolitical plan – the nurturing and intensification of the religious Christian Orthodox connection between the Russians and the Orthodox peoples of the Balkans. This includes not [only] the Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians, but also the Greeks and Bulgarians whose states are in NATO and whose religious ‘awakening’ can easily subvert NATO from the inside.”

Criticism and minimization of the project have set the tone in Western media, to the extent that it has been covered at all, particularly in relation to utilizing an opposition party for significant influence. But Kovacevic argues that such a dismissive attitude is disingenuous:

“[T]he very same method has been used by the U.S. and NATO intelligence services to control the governments of East-Central European states since the collapse of communism. Countless small parties with just a handful of parliamentary deputies were formed with the money coming from the various ‘black budgets’ with the task of entering the governing coalition and then steering the entire government in the direction charted by their foreign founders and mentors.

“These parties have had minimal public legitimacy, but have made a great political impact with their ‘blackmail’ potential. As they also don’t cost very much, the CIA, the MI6, and the BND regularly create them for every new election cycle.

“Now the Russians (primarily, the SVR and the GRU) are using the same rulebook for their own geopolitical interests. In addition, however, Putin’s grand design for the Balkans embodied in the ANS is also likely to prove durable not only because it builds on the traditional cultural and religious ties linking Russia and the Balkans, but also because it rides on the wave of the enormous present popular dissatisfaction with the neoliberal Atlanticist political and economic status quo.”

The fact that this declaration was signed in Montenegro is most relevant due to the fact that the country has been officially invited to join NATO, whose subsequent membership is treated in the West as a fait accompli. However, accession requires consensus approval by all current NATO members – one member could veto the move before completion of the process as happened with Macedonia when Greece vetoed their membership aspirations in 2008 when an invitation was to be offered at the Bucharest Summit – as well as approval by the population of Montenegro.

Joining any alliance treaty is arguably something that affects national sovereignty, which requires a referendum as Kovacevic, who is Montenegrin, explains:

“The corrupt government of Milo Djukanovic is trying to avoid a national referendum because it knows that it does not have a majority support for NATO. If given a choice, the people of Montenegro would reject the protocol. The Constitution requires a referendum for all matters that affect national sovereignty, but Djukanovic is arguing falsely that NATO membership leaves Montenegrin sovereignty intact.”

Kovacevic predicts that a show-down over NATO membership could create instability in the country: “[I]f he [Djukanovic] tries to push this decision through the Parliament (which he no doubt will), wide-scale strikes and demonstrations may take place all over the country. Whoever is pushing Montenegro in NATO is dangerously destabilizing the country in mid-to-long term.”

If that happens, Washington may find for the first time in recent memory that forcing instability on a smaller country may ultimately accrue benefits to another great power, helping to facilitate a shift in geopolitics that it didn’t bargain on. As Nazemroaya comments in his book:

“The [NATO] alliance is increasingly being viewed as a geopolitical extension of America, an arm of the Pentagon, and a synonym for an evolving American Empire. … Ultimately, NATO is slated to become an institutionalized military force. … Nevertheless, for every action there is a reaction and NATO’s actions have given rise to opposing trends. The Atlantic Alliance is increasingly coming into contact with the zone of Eurasia that is in the process of emerging with its own ideas and alliance. What this will lead to next is the question of the century.”

Natylie Baldwin is co-author of Ukraine: Zbig’s Grand Chessboard & How the West Was Checkmated, available from Tayen Lane Publishing.  In October of 2015, she traveled to 6 cities in the Russian Federation and has written several articles based on her conversations and interviews with a cross-section of Russians.  Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various publications including Consortium News, Russia Insider, OpEd News, The New York Journal of Books, The Common Line, Santa Fe Sun Monthly, Dissident Voice, Energy Bulletin, Newtopia Magazine, and the Lakeshore. She blogs at natyliesbaldwin.com.

Lobbying Money Twirls the Political World

As the Cabaret song observes, “money makes the world go ‘round,” and that’s especially true of American politics with the Democratic platform objecting to lobbying only sotto voce so as not to offend, says Michael Winship.

By Michael Winship

In all of the 35 single-spaced pages of the Democratic Party’s platform draft, there is just one mention of lobbying. One. Oh, it says some fine uplifting things about voters lacking a proper voice in government, about money and politics and the need to overturn Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo, two of the Supreme Court decisions that unleashed a deluge of dollars into our electoral system.

“Democrats believe we must fight to preserve the essence of the longest standing democracy in the world: a government that represents the American people, not just a handful of powerful and wealthy special interests,” the draft reads. “We will fight for real campaign-finance reform now. Big money is drowning out the voices of everyday Americans, and we must have the necessary tools to fight back and safeguard our electoral and political integrity.”

But the word “lobbying” is only in there once. And that’s in reference to regulating our financial system. “We will crack down on the revolving door between the private sector — particularly Wall Street — and the federal government,” it says in the draft. “… And we will bar financial-service regulators from lobbying their former colleagues for at least two years.”

All fine and dandy, and sure, language may change as the committee meets in Orlando this weekend to approve a final draft that will be sent to the convention later this month. But so far, there’s zero about the billions of dollars spent to lobby Congress, the White House and the other federal regulatory agencies — $3.22 billion last year alone.

Nothing about how lobbyists bundle masses of cash for candidates and bankroll lavish lunches and soirees at the party conventions. Nothing about the thousands employed along K Street to woo politicians and government officials on behalf of their fat-cat clients. Nothing about the trickle down of the lobby industry from DC into our states, counties and municipalities.

Just the other day, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that since 2002, lobbyists in Minnesota alone have spent nearly $800 million buying influence: “The amount spent per year has doubled, and the number of new lobbying clients seeking to make themselves heard has tripled.”

Funny kind of democracy where you have to shell out big bucks to get any attention paid, emphasis on the “paid.” It reminds me of my late friend, humorist Henry Morgan, who used to say that the word democracy was derived from the Greek — demos, meaning “people,” and cracy, meaning “crazy.”

But the Democrats’ failure to sound the alarm on lobbying isn’t surprising, really. No one in either of the two party establishments wants to upset the cart that delivers all them golden apples.

Besides, as journalist Thomas Frank writes, Washington and the lobbyists that the city nurtures have bonded as “a community – a community of corruption, perhaps, but a community nevertheless: happy, prosperous and joyfully oblivious to the plight of the country once known as the land of the middle class.”

Lobbying remains one of the nation’s “persistently prosperous industries,” Thomas Frank notes, with a “curiously bipartisan nature… After all, for this part of Washington, the only real ideology around is based on money – how much and how quickly you get paid.”

Look on their works, ye Mighty, and despair! Or better yet, take a look at a recent article in Politico, the publication which is to Washington gossip and dealmaking what Variety is to Hollywood gossip and dealmaking.

It’s the sad story of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, an attempt — after the arrest and conviction of superlobbyist Jack Abramoff — to address the revolving door between government and business, that sends former members of Congress and their staffs spinning into the arms of cushy lobbying jobs, too often fostering graft, greed and the gross abuse of money and power.

Instead, and in classic fashion, by the time the bill was signed into law, it had been subverted, twisted into a tangle of compromise and doubletalk that did nothing to solve the problem and may well have made it worse.

Isaac Arnsdorf of Politico writes, “Not only did the lobbying reform bill fail to slow the revolving door, it created an entire class of professional influencers who operate in the shadows, out of the public eye and unaccountable.”

“Of the 352 people who left Congress alive since the law took effect in January 2008, POLITICO found that almost half (47 percent) have joined the influence industry: 84 as registered lobbyists and 80 others as policy advisers, strategic consultants, trade association chiefs, corporate government relations executives, affiliates of agenda-driven research institutes and leaders of political action committees or pressure groups.

Taken as a whole, more former lawmakers are influencing policy and public opinion now than before the reform was enacted: in a six-year period before the law, watchdog group Public Citizen found 43 percent of former lawmakers became lobbyists.”

Further: “There is less transparency because some former lawmakers don’t need to register because lobbying is just one slice of how special interests shape laws in Washington today… [And] it’s hard to tell the difference between the job descriptions of former members who are registered to lobby and those who aren’t. That’s because the reform law provided weak rules and even weaker enforcement. It added criminal penalties but made them so hard to prosecute they’ve never been tried.”

And it gets worse: “The revolving door is about to enter peak season. Already 42 members of Congress have resigned, lost or announced plans to leave by January, and some are already talking with prospective future employers — all perfectly permissible and confidential, thanks to weaknesses engineered into the post-Abramoff reform law. These members know they can command a premium — $100,000 more than other lobbyists, according to a new study — from an industry that values the access they can provide to the halls of power.”

And you thought Congress never got anything accomplished! And then wondered why plutocrats can still skip through yawning tax loopholes and the military still gets billions for weapons systems it doesn’t need and the health insurance industry gets away with murder and pharmaceutical prices are ruinous, to name but a few of the heinous ways the influence of deep pockets shafts the rest of us.

The crime, of course, is that none of this is a crime but business as usual. And so the draft platform of the Democratic National Committee mentions lobbying but once and the chicanery, gouging and legalized bribery continue unabated — just another perfect day in Washington and these United States. Check, please.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This article previously appeared at http://billmoyers.com/story/democrats-ignore-lobbyist-room/.]


Hillary Clinton’s Libyan Fingerprints

Some Hillary Clinton backers now downplay the then-Secretary of State’s role in what has become a disastrous “regime change” war in Libya, but that was not what her sycophants were saying four years ago, recalls Larry C. Johnson.

By Larry C. Johnson

I am going to share with you four devastating emails sent and received by Hillary Clinton on the subject of Libya. You can find these posted at Wikileaks. It is clear in reading these exchanges that, in the glow of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Hillary embraced the call to spike the football and clearly was planning to use Libya as evidence of her leadership and skill that qualified her to become President.

The attack on our diplomats and CIA officers in Benghazi on 11 September 2012 however, destroyed that dream. The dream became a nightmare and Hillary has scrambled to pretend that she was not the mover-and-shaker that destabilized Libya and made it a safe haven for ISIS, aka radical Islamists.

Let me take you through these chronologically. First up is an email from James “Jamie” Rubin, the husband of CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. (You might want to have an air sickness bag handy.) Jamie wrote on 18 July 2011:

“Again, congratulations are in order for Friday’s recognition of the Transitional National Council in Istanbul. It is a pleasure to see the State Department again leading the administration on this. Syria, too, but that is a subject for another day.

“I suspect that you have been pushing very hard within the administration on Libya. From the outside, the White House doesn’t seem like it cares very much. In general, the NSC seems uncomfortable with creative applications of American power and influence. And we all know the military and the Pentagon resist limited military operations, especially airpower-only engagements. So, it must be you and your colleagues at State. Well done. . . .

“First and foremost, this is winnable. The killing of Bin Ladin aside, the administration really needs a solid, substantial success. . . .

“Second, unlike in the Balkans or Afghanistan, Paris and London are fully committed, as are most Europeans, with the exception of Germany, which is a disgrace but not really relevant in the end. . . .

“Third, beyond the moral component of preventing a slaughter, defeating Qaddafi is one of the few concrete and unique ways the West can contribute to the Arab Spring. . . .

“Fourth, even a small success like the one that is coming in Libya will turn around the steady decline in American influence in the region and around the world. I suspect that you know this, but European elites, Gulf elites, East Europeans and many others regard the Administration as weak.

“What you need is a rationale for a new strategy and an internal argument for the Pentagon to change its position. If the Pentagon moves and a new rationale alters the politics on Capitol Hill, the White House will have to go along. . . . But I would suggest the following strategy:

“First, without acknowledging that it was a mistake to let the British and French lead the operation to begin with, you can simply argue that circumstances have changed to the extent that leaving Qaddafi in power is now a national security risk. . . .

“Second, for civilians in the Pentagon and the military, you can simply state that the U.S. and NATO’s deterrent power is now at risk. . . .

“Third, the threat of Qaddafi organizing terrorist threats against Europe and possibly the United States is an argument that most Republicans will be forced to accept. (At a private meeting with Tim Pawlenty, he put forward the idea that framed as a threat from a former terrorist leader, most Republicans would change their view.) McCain and Lindsey Graham are already there and with this new rationale it should be possible to win political support from Republicans that would not support the moral case alone.”

I am sure you picked up the themes here – Obama is weak ass, U.S. policy needs to shift to get on board with the Europeans and Hillary is the one to do it. Hillary loved this note from Jamie. She directed her staff to print it.

A little more than one month later (in fact, the day after rebels entered Tripoli), Hillary’s old friend and confidant, Sid Blumenthal, weighed in (barf bag suggestion still recommended):

“First, brava! This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it. When Qaddafi himself is finally removed, you should of course make a public statement before the cameras wherever you are, even in the driveway of your vacation house. You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment. The most important phrase is: ‘successful strategy.’

“Just a few points: *The US has pursued a successful strategy in Libya. We did not know how long it would take, but we knew it would not be easy, and that it would require steadiness and persistence. This was the right course, based on our interests and principles. And it has worked.

“*Do not skimp on the reasons in the US interest behind the successful strategy: We prevented a humanitarian tragedy on a vast scale. Qaddafi, who had already killed 2,000 people in April, threatened to massacre the residents of Benghazi, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. We worked closely with our NATO allies, proving that cooperation within the Western alliance can achieve our mutual goals.

“The US has demonstrated its principled belief in the rule of law and acted on the basis of the United Nations resolution. We have supported the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people for democracy and freedom. We have ousted a murderous dictator who has been a source of terrorism, civil war throughout Africa and a prop for dictators elsewhere. By acting in Libya we have helped advance the cause of democracy and freedom throughout the Arab world. We have provided an important support for neighboring Egypt. We have put Assad on notice that the sands of time have run out for him as well. Our successful strategy in Libya stands as a warning that our strategy will work again. Etc.

“*Be aware that some may attempt to justify the flamingly stupid ‘leading from behind’ phrase, junior types on the NSC imagining their cleverness. To refute this passive construction on US policy and help remove it as an albatross from the administration as it enters the election year, do not be defensive but rather simply explain that the US had a clear strategy from the start, stuck with it and has succeeded.

“*Then you can say whatever on future policy — but only after asserting the historic success and explaining the reasons why. *This is a very big moment historically and for you. History will tell your part in it. You are vindicated. But don’t wait, help Clio now.” (Blumenthal’s reference to “Clio” is to the Greek muse of history.)

Yes sir. “Big moment” indeed. Hillary helped thousands die but, as Sid emphasized, the glory, at least part of it, belonged to her. This was not because of anything that the weak-ass President Obama did. Nope. It was Hillary’s baby.

On 3 September 2011, Hillary directed her staff – Jake Sullivan in particular–to document the case of Hillary’s “brilliance.” Remember. This is how Hillary and her staff were taking credit for what transpired in Libya:

“Secretary Clinton’s leadership on Libya HRC has been a critical voice on Libya in administration deliberations, at NATO, and in contact group meetings as well as the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya. She was instrumental in securing the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime.

“February 25 — HRC announces the suspension of operations of the Libyan embassy in Washington.

“February 26 — HRC directs efforts to evacuate all U.S. embassy personnel from Tripoli and orders the closing of the embassy.

“February 26 HRC made a series of calls to her counterparts to help secure passage of UNSC 1970, which imposes sanctions on Gaddafi and his family and refers Qadhafi and his cronies to the ICC

“February 28 — HRC travels to Geneva, Switzerland for consultations with European partners on Libya. She gives a major address in which she says: ‘Colonel Qadhafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency. Through their actions, they have lost the legitimacy to govern. And the people of Libya have made themselves clear: It is time for Qadhafi to go — now, without further violence or delay.’ She also works to secure the suspension of Libya from membership in the Human Rights Council.

“Early March — HRC appoints Special Envoy Chris Stevens to be the U.S. representative to Benghazi

“March 14 — HRC travels to Paris for the G8 foreign minister’s meeting. She meets with TNC representative Jibril and consults with her colleagues on further UN Security Council action. She notes that a no-fly zone will not be adequate.

“March 14-16 — HRC participates in a series of high-level video- and teleconferences B5 She is a leading voice for strong UNSC action and a NA TO civilian protection mission.

“March 17— HRC secures Russian abstention and Portuguese and African support for UNSC 1973, ensuring that it passes. 1973 authorizes a no-fly zone over Libya and ‘all necessary measures’ – code for military action – to protect civilians against Gaddafts army.

“March 24 — HRC engages with allies and secures the transition of command and control of the civilian protection mission to NATO. She announces the transition in a statement.

“March 18-30— HRC engages with UAE, Qatar, and Jordan to seek their participation in coalition operations. Over the course of several days, all three devote aircraft to the mission.

“March 19— HRC travels to Paris to meet with European and Arab leaders to prepare for military action to protect civilians. That night, the first U.S. air strikes halt the advance of Gaddafi’s forces on Benghazi and target Libya’s air defenses.

“March 29—HRCt ravels to London for a conference on Libya, where she is a driving force behind the creation of a Contact Group comprising 20-plus countries to coordinate efforts to protect civilians and plan for a post-Qadhafi Libya. She is instrumental in setting up a rotating chair system to ensure regional buy-in.

“April 14—HRC travels to Berlin for NATO meetings. She is the driving force behind NATOadopting a communique that calls for Qadhafi’sdeparture as a political objective, and lays out three clear military objectives: end of attacks and threat of attacks on civilians; the removal of Qadhafi forces from cities they forcibly entered; and the unfettered provision of humanitarian access.

“May 5 — HRC travels to Rome for a Contact Group meeting. The Contact Group establishes a coordination system and a temporary financial mechanism to funnel money to the TNC.

“June 8 — HRC travels to Abu Dhabi for another Contact Group meeting and holds a series of intense discussions with rebel leaders.

“June 12 — HRC travels to Addis for consultations and a speech before the African Union, pressing the case for a democratic transition in Libya.

“July 15 — HRC travels to Istanbul and announces that the U.S. recognizes the TNC as the legitimate government of Libya. She also secures recognition from the other members of the Contact Group. Late June — HRC meets with House Democrats and Senate Republicans to persuade them not to de-fund the Libya operation.

“July 16 — HRC sends Feltman, Cretz, and Chollet to Tunis to meet with Qadhafi envoys ‘to deliver a clear and firm message that the only way to move forward, is for Qadhafi to step down’.

“Early August — HRC works to construct a $1.5 billion assets package to be approved by the Security Council and sent to the TNC. That package is working through its last hurdles.

“Early August — After military chief Abdel Fattah Younes is killed, S sends a personal message to TNC head Jalil to press for a responsible investigation and a careful and inclusive approach to creating a new executive council

“Early August — HRC secures written pledges from the TNC to an inclusive, pluralistic democratic transition. She continues to consult with European and Arab colleagues on the evolving situation.”

Hillary and her posse were not content to sit back and hope that others would recognize here “brilliant leadership.” Nope. They embarked on a full propaganda campaign to ensure that the media and the public got that message. Sid Blumenthal helped coordinate this effort and turned to fellow Hillary sycophant, Jamie Rubin, to help push the meme. His email to Hillary is dated 10 September 2011.

Jamie, using his position as an editor at Bloomberg News, published the following op-ed. Please note the shrewd and deceptive use of the media. Nowhere in this piece does Jamie disclose that he is a friend of Hillary’s and had provided previous encouragement to pursue this policy. I am sure that Jamie was feeling very smug about his insider role. The average reader, however, had no clue. They simply assumed that this was an objective journalist taking note of the magnificence of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In an email, Blumenthal passed on word to Clinton: ” Subject: H: Per our conversation. Jamie writes editorial… Sid

“http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2011-09-o8/hillary-clinton-deseryes-credit-for-the- positive-u-s-role-in-libya-yiew.html

“Hillary Clinton Deserves Credit for U.S. Role in Libya:

“View By the Editors –

“Sep 7,2011

“The unsung hero of the Libya drama in the U.S. is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s actions were critical for several reasons. Most important, she overcame Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s caution about using military force in Libya and his reluctance to support an operation led by France and Britain. Clinton also personally managed the unorthodox partnership with French President Nicolas Sarkozy that proved so crucial to joint action to defeat the Qaddafi regime.

“Despite the unusual arrangement in which the U.S. was a supporter rather than a leader of NATO’s military operation, she defended intervention before a skeptical Congress and performed the hard slog of daily diplomacy around the world, helping Arab countries, the Europeans and the U.S. work together with a minimum of friction and a maximum of determination.

“Aside from the killing of Osama bin Laden, the decision to support NATO military action in Libya is probably the Obama administration’s most important achievement in international affairs. Although Muammar Qaddafi is still at large and the country is a long way from having a stable, representative government, there is little doubt that the Qaddafi regime has been defeated as a result of an internal revolt led by the Transitional National Council.

“History will surely judge that, by intervening on the side of the rebellion, the West — primarily the governments of France, the U.K. and the U.S. — made a unique and invaluable contribution to the democratic aspirations of the people of the Middle East. That said, the Obama administration’s decision-making process remains opaque. The veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s next book, due out in the fall 2012, may shed some light on the question of whose voices were decisive this past March, when President Barack Obama decided to support a United Nations resolution and a NATO military operation for Libya.

“Based on our discussions with administration officials, as well as the public record, some preliminary conclusions about the decision are possible. First, while we argued for a more active U.S. military role in NATO’s operation, it is now clear that Obama’s unprecedented approach — in which Washington supported, rather than led, a NATO operation — was successful in the end.

“Second, by breaking with Gates, Clinton tipped the balance within the administration in favor of action. Without her strong argument to support the Europeans’ call for American help, Washington probably would not have acted. The president’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, was declaring freedom in Libya to be outside the U.S. national interest, and both military and civilian officials in the Pentagon were reluctant to endorse or even opposed U.S. intervention. But Clinton’s push for the U.S. to act in support of Britain and France appears to have been decisive.

“In retrospect, the fears of Gates and other military officials that action in Libya would be a slippery slope, perhaps leading to U.S. involvement on the ground in a third war in the Middle East, seem wildly overblown. Obama said the U.S. would play a limited role by offering unique military assets, such as aerial refueling and air-defense suppression capabilities. Congress not only opposed sending in ground troops but mostly opposed any U.S. involvement. Obama wisely resisted.

“For better or worse, the Libya model is not likely to be repeated anytime soon. This is not, as some say, because NATO will never again intervene in a situation like Libya’s. After the Kosovo war, many also said NATO would never again act against a dictator to save lives.

“The Libya model is no guide for the future because such a unique set of circumstances in favor of military action is not likely to happen again. Think about the conditions: A despised dictator threatened mass murder; an open desert provided a decisive advantage for air power; a rebel army on the ground sought democratic change and espoused Western values; the UN at least loosely endorsed NATO air operations; the Arab League called for the West to intervene militarily in an Arab country; and U.S. allies prepared to do all the heavy lifting. Given those circumstances, it is still hard to explain why there were determined opponents, primarily in the Republican Party, to this mission in the first place.

“Throughout most of Obama’s term in office, only a few administration officials have commanded respect and political power on national security matters: Clinton, Gates and General David Petraeus, the most decorated and admired officer of recent times. With Gates now gone and Petraeus in a non-policy role as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Clinton’s power will only increase as the president’s re-election campaign heats up. We hope she recognizes her opportunity and uses it well.”

Hillary told Sid the following in her email response to this op-ed: “It was very welcome and gave me reason to sit down and talk w Jamie who is such a good friend. Hope to talk soon–H”

This is how propaganda, press manipulation and lying to the public is manufactured in Washington, DC. Hillary and her crew, with the help of Jamie Rubin, pushed the meme that Hillary, not Obama, deserved the credit for the “success” in Libya.

Absolutely. Let her have it. Hang this festering turd of a policy around Hillary’s neck. To do so is only just. She is a power hungry thug who helped cause the deaths of thousands just to advance her own vile political ambitions.

Larry C. Johnson is a former CIA analyst and counterterrorism official at the State Department. [This article originally appeared at Larry Johnson’s blog No Quarter, http://www.noquarterusa.net/blog/79194/hillarys-responsibility-libyan-disaster/]