EU in Stress: the German-Polish Clash

The strains on Europe from neocon-devised policies of “regime change” in Syria and Ukraine are resurfacing historical divisions and reviving old animosities among European states, including a war of words between Angela Merkel’s Germany and Poland’s new right-wing government, as Gilbert Doctorow explains.

By Gilbert Doctorow

It may have been a foregone conclusion that Poland under the control of Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party because of its Euroskeptic and nationalist positions would quickly join Viktor Orban’s Hungary as a “bad boy” of the European Union.

In recent months, especially since the Law and Justice Party’s electoral victory last October, Poland has stood out as a leading naysayer to the E.U.’s calls for sharing the burden of receiving the wave of refugees arriving from Syria and the Middle East. Polish criticism of the open borders policy championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been stinging.

For instance, before the election, Kaczynski raised alarms about the possibility that the Mideast refugees might carry diseases. “There are already signs of emergence of diseases that are highly dangerous and have not been seen in Europe for a long time: cholera on the Greek islands, dysentery in Vienna. There is also talk about other, even more severe diseases,” he said, though European health authorities have not reported any widespread outbreak of infectious diseases connected to the migrants.

Poland also has been quick to take a “we told you so” stand on the New Year’s Eve mass violence and sexual assaults allegedly perpetrated by youths from North Africa and the Middle East, including asylum seekers, outside the Cologne main train station in Germany. Polish media cited the five-day blackout in Germany on news about the New Year’s Eve violence to question the autonomy and social responsibility of German journalism.

There are other reasons behind Polish vehemence on the refugees. First, from the standpoint of its population, Poland is already overrun by refugees and economic immigrants from Ukraine, which has suffered from civil war and economic collapse since February 2014 when a violent putsch toppled the government of President Viktor Yanukovych and created a crisis with Russia.

Official statistics put the number of Ukrainian refugees in Poland at about 400,000, as of May 2015, but unofficial estimates are much higher, more than a million today. The Ukrainians are putting pressure on the local job market at a time when there is still a net outflow of ethnic Poles going abroad in search of work. Secondly, admitting Muslims runs directly against the new government’s stress on protecting and nurturing traditional Catholic religious values.

But Merkel’s allies are hitting back against Poland’s new leadership for its apparently anti-democratic actions to tighten government control over the public news media. A controversial new law allows the Polish government to appoint the directors of the public TV and radio services, as well as civil service directors.

This control of public media will be the subject of a European Commission examination into Poland’s possibly violating the E.U.’s Rule of Law provisions, scheduled for Jan. 13 in Brussels. The charges are being pressed by a German commissioner-designate, Guenther Oetttinger, who is taking charge of European Digital Economy and Society.

If a determination is made that Poland’s law violates Europe’s rules, the penalty could be to suspend Warsaw’s voting rights in the European Council. That would be particularly awkward because Poland’s own former premier, Donald Tusk, from what’s now the opposition party, happens to be the Council’s president.

To be sure, such an outcome would come only after a period of “supervision” during which Poland’s conduct of affairs would be subject to ongoing review by the Commission. But the notion of such European supervision raises hackles in Warsaw, as reported by the country’s leading daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza.

It also should be noted that suspension of Poland’s voting rights is unlikely given the vocal support for Poland now coming from Hungarian President Viktor Orban.  Resolutions in the E.U. institutions must pass unanimously, which Orban’s veto threatens.

The more likely penalty that Poland could face is a cutback in E.U. financial assistance to the great variety of Polish infrastructure projects now benefiting from the largesse of Brussels. Poland is, in fact, the single largest beneficiary. Any cutbacks could be made simply as an administrative matter.

Poland also was scolded by President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat and thus representative of Merkel’s ruling coalition. He decried the new Polish government in Russophobic terms, meant to insult Poland’s leaders by comparing them to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In statements about Poland’s new press laws, quoted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper on Jan. 9, Schulz hurled the following grenade: “The Polish government treats its electoral victory as a mandate to subordinate the wellbeing of the state to the interests of the victorious party, including personnel. This is controlled democracy à la Putin, a dangerous Putinization (Putinisierung) of European politics.”

The underlying resentments and condescension expressed by Schulz’s remarks come from historically tense relations between Germany and Poland, even if those conflicts now play out not on battlefields but in the non-violent universe of European institutions in Brussels, a system that many Member States view as German-controlled.  Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission (from Luxembourg) and Donald Tusk, the ex-Polish premier at the Council, both owe their positions to the strong backing of Angela Merkel. And Schulz at the European Parliament comes from her coalition.

But the image of German hegemony in Europe is something that Berlin strongly rejects. On Monday, Merkel’s spokesman explained to journalists that the Chancellor hopes for continued good working relations with Poland and looks forward to the forthcoming visit to Berlin of Poland’s new prime minister. Any differences over policy are with the European Institutions, he said, where Germany is just one of 28 Member States.

Both founders of the 14-year-old Law and Justice Party, Jaroslaw KaczyÅ„ski and his brother Lech, the Polish president who died in a plane crash outside Smolensk in 2010, often vented publicly their bitter feelings towards Germany going back to World War II atrocities. Relations with Berlin were fraught under their administration last decade, and their party’s return to power in 2015 was based on campaign promises to free the Polish economy from foreign, meaning German, domination.

The net result of the growing public row may be to unravel one of the key foreign policy achievements of Merkel’s 10 years in power consolidating her country’s hold over Central Europe. It also has implications for the E.U.’s current anti-Russian stance and sanctions, all of which have depended on Germany’s explicit support for adventurous Polish-written policies to woo Ukraine at the expense of Russian interests.

The passions of the Old World also have spilled over to the United States, where Polish-Americans have taken a close interest in the contest of wills between Warsaw and Berlin and Brussels. One political association in New York, the Polish Patriotic Discussion Club, issued Open Letters to the presidents of the European Institutions, and to Dr. Oettinger, sounding the alarm over what they see as “interference in the matters of the Republic of Poland as a sovereign country.”

Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator, American Committee for East West Accord, Ltd. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? (August 2015) is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.com and affiliated websites. For donations to support the European activities of ACEWA, write to eastwestaccord@gmail.com © Gilbert Doctorow, 2015




A US Media Lost in Propaganda

There was once a time perhaps just a brief moment in time when American journalists were cynical and responsible enough to resist being jerked around by U.S. government propaganda, but that time has long since passed if it ever existed, a reality that William Blum describes.

By William Blum

Vulgar, crude, racist and ultra-sexist though he is, Donald Trump can still see how awful the American mainstream media is.

I think one of the main reasons for Donald Trump’s popularity is that he says what’s on his mind and he means what he says, something rather rare amongst American politicians, or politicians perhaps anywhere in the world. The American public is sick and tired of the phony, hypocritical answers given by office-holders of all kinds.

When I read that Trump had said that Sen. John McCain was not a hero because McCain had been captured in Vietnam, I had to pause for reflection. Wow! Next the man will be saying that not every American soldier who was in the military in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq was a shining hero worthy of constant media honor and adulation.

When Trump was interviewed by ABC-TV host George Stephanopoulos, former aide to President Bill Clinton, he was asked: “When you were pressed about [Russian president Vladimir Putin’s] killing of journalists, you said, ‘I think our country does plenty of killing too.’ What were you thinking about there? What killing sanctioned by the U.S. government is like killing journalists?”

Trump responded: “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he’s killed? Because I’ve been you know, you’ve been hearing this, but I haven’t seen the name. Now, I think it would be despicable if that took place, but I haven’t seen any evidence that he killed anybody in terms of reporters.”

Or Trump could have given Stephanopoulos a veritable heart attack by declaring that the American military, in the course of its wars in recent decades, has been responsible for the deliberate deaths of many journalists. In Iraq, for example, there’s the Wikileaks 2007 video, exposed by Chelsea Manning, of the cold-blooded murder of two Reuters journalists; the 2003 U.S. air-to-surface missile attack on the offices of Al Jazeera in Baghdad that left three journalists dead and four wounded; and the American firing on Baghdad’s Hotel Palestine the same year that killed two foreign news cameramen.

It was during this exchange that Stephanopoulos allowed the following to pass his lips: “But what killing has the United States government done?”

Do the American TV networks not give any kind of intellectual test to their newscasters? Something at a fourth-grade level might improve matters.

Prominent MSNBC newscaster Joe Scarborough, interviewing Trump, was also baffled by Trump’s embrace of Putin, who had praised Trump as being “bright and talented.”. Putin, said Scarborough, was “also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

Putin “invades countries” Well, now there even I would have been at a loss as to how to respond. Try as I might I don’t think I could have thought of any countries the United States has ever invaded. [Editor’s Note: Sarcasm aside, Blum has compiled comprehensive lists of U.S. invasions and interventions in his books, including Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.]

To his credit, Trump responded: “I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.”

As to Putin killing political opponents, this too would normally go unchallenged in the American mainstream media. But earlier this year, I listed seven highly questionable deaths of opponents of the Ukraine government, a regime put in power by the United States, which is used as a club against Putin.  This of course was non-news in the American media.

So that’s what happens when the know-nothing American media meets up with a know-just-a-bit-more presidential candidate. Ain’t democracy wonderful?

Trump has also been criticized for saying that immediately after the 9/11 attacks, thousands of Middle Easterners were seen celebrating outdoors in New Jersey in sight of the attack location. An absurd remark, for which Trump has been rightfully vilified; but not as absurd as the U.S. mainstream media pretending that it had no idea what Trump could possibly be referring to in his mixed-up manner.

For there were in fact people seen in New Jersey apparently celebrating the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers. But they were Israelis, which would explain all one needs to know about why the story wasn’t in the headlines and has since been “forgotten” or misremembered.

On the day of the 9/11 attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked what the attacks would mean for U.S.-Israeli relations. His quick reply was: “It’s very good. Well, it’s not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy (for Israel).” There’s a lot on the Internet about these Israelis in New Jersey, who were held in police custody for months before being released. So here too mainstream newspersons do not know enough to enlighten their audience.

Russian Propaganda?

There is a Russian website [inosmi = foreign mass media] that translates propagandistic russophobic articles from the Western media into Russian and publishes them so that Russians can see with their own eyes how the Western media lies about them day after day.

There have been several articles lately based on polls that show that anti-Western sentiments are increasing in Russia, and blaming it on “Putin’s propaganda.” This is rather odd because who needs propaganda when the Russians can read the Western media themselves and see firsthand all the lies it puts forth about them and the demonizing of Putin.

There are several political-debate shows on Russian television where they invite Western journalists or politicians; on one there frequently is a really funny American journalist, Michael Bohm, who keeps regurgitating all the Western propaganda, arguing with his Russian counterparts.

It’s pretty surreal to watch him display the worst political stereotypes of Americans: arrogant, gullible, and ignorant. He stands there and lectures high-ranking Russian politicians, “explaining” to them the “real” Russian foreign policy, and the “real” intentions behind their actions, as opposed to anything they say. The man is shockingly irony-impaired. It is as funny to watch as it is sad and scary.

The above was written with the help of a woman who was raised in the Soviet Union and now lives in Washington. She and I have discussed U.S. foreign policy on many occasions. We are in very close agreement as to its destructiveness and absurdity.

Just as in the first Cold War, one of the basic problems is that Exceptional Americans have great difficulty in believing that Russians mean well. Apropos this, I’d like to recall the following written about the late George Kennan:

“Crossing Poland with the first US diplomatic mission to the Soviet Union in the winter of 1933, a young American diplomat named George Kennan was somewhat astonished to hear the Soviet escort, Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, reminisce about growing up in a village nearby, about the books he had read and his dreams as a small boy of being a librarian.

“We suddenly realized, or at least I did, that these people we were dealing with were human beings like ourselves,” Kennan wrote, “that they had been born somewhere, that they had their childhood ambitions as we had. It seemed for a brief moment we could break through and embrace these people.”

It hasn’t happened yet.

Kennan’s sudden realization brings George Orwell to mind: “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

 William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report,  http://williamblum.org/ .]




Reality Peeks Through in Ukraine

Exclusive: With corruption rampant and living standards falling, Ukraine may become the next failed state that “benefited” from a neoconservative-driven “regime change,” though the blame will always be placed elsewhere in this case, on the demonized Russian President Putin, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Nearly two years since U.S. officials helped foment a coup in Ukraine partly justified by corruption allegations the country continues to wallow in graft and cronyism as the living standards for average Ukrainians plummet, according to economic data and polls of public attitudes.

Even the neocon-oriented Wall Street Journal took note of the worsening corruption in a Jan. 1, 2016 article observing that “most Ukrainians say the revolution’s promise to replace rule by thieves with the rule of law has fallen short and the government acknowledges that there is still much to be done.”

Actually, the numbers suggest something even worse. More and more Ukrainians rate corruption as a major problem facing the nation, including a majority of 53 percent last September, up from 48 percent last June and 28 percent in September 2014, according to polls by International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s GDP has fallen in every quarter since the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych. Since then, the average Ukrainian also has faced economic “reforms” to slash pensions, energy subsidies and other social programs, as demanded by the International Monetary Fund.

In other words, the hard lives of most Ukrainians have gotten significantly harder while the elites continue to skim off whatever cream is left, including access to billions of dollars in the West’s foreign assistance that is keeping the economy afloat.

Part of the problem appears to be that people supposedly responsible for the corruption fight are themselves dogged by allegations of corruption. The Journal cited Ukrainian lawmaker Volodymyr Parasyuk who claimed to be so outraged by graft that he expressed his fury “by kicking in the face an official he says owns luxury properties worth much more than a state salary could provide.”

However, the Journal also noted that “parliament is the site of frequent mass brawls [and] it is hard to untangle all the overlapping corruption allegations and squabbling over who is to blame. Mr. Parasyuk himself was named this week as receiving money from an organized crime suspect, a claim he denies.”

Then, there is the case of Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who is regarded by top American columnists as the face of Ukraine’s reform. Indeed, a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month by Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, hailed Jaresko as “a tough reformer” whose painful plans include imposing a 20 percent “flat tax” on Ukrainians (a favorite nostrum of the American Right which despises a progressive tax structure that charges the rich at a higher rate).

Sestanovich noted that hedge-fund billionaire George Soros, who has made a fortune by speculating in foreign currencies, has endorsed Jaresko’s plan but that it is opposed by some key parliamentarians who favor a “populist” alternative that Sestanovich says “will cut rates, explode the deficit, and kiss IMF money good-bye.”

Yet, Jaresko is hardly a paragon of reform. Prior to getting instant Ukrainian citizenship and becoming Finance Minister in December 2014, she was a former U.S. diplomat who had been entrusted to run a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-funded program to help jump-start an investment economy in Ukraine and Moldova.

Jaresko’s compensation was capped at $150,000 a year, a salary that many Americans would envy, but it was not enough for her. So, she engaged in a variety of maneuvers to evade the cap and enrich herself by claiming millions of dollars in bonuses and fees.

Ultimately, Jaresko was collecting more than $2 million a year after she shifted management of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF) to her own private company, Horizon Capital, and arranged to get lucrative bonuses when selling off investments, even as the overall WNISEF fund was losing money, according to official records.

For instance, Jaresko collected $1.77 million in bonuses in 2013, according to WNISEF’s latest available filing with the Internal Revenue Service. In her financial disclosure forms with the Ukrainian government, she reported earning $2.66 million in 2013 and $2.05 million in 2014, thus amassing a sizeable personal fortune while investing U.S. taxpayers’ money supposedly to benefit the Ukrainian people.

It didn’t matter that WNISEF continued to hemorrhage money, shrinking from its original $150 million to $89.8 million in the 2013 tax year, according to the IRS filing. WNISEF reported that the bonuses to Jaresko and other corporate officers were based on “successful” exits from some investments even if the overall fund was losing money. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How Ukraine’s Finance Minister Got Rich.”]

Though Jaresko’s enrichment schemes are documented by IRS and other official filings, the mainstream U.S. media has turned a blind eye to this history, all the better to pretend that Ukraine’s “reform” process is in good hands. (It also turns out that Jaresko did not comply with Ukrainian law that permits only single citizenship; she has kept her U.S. passport exploiting a loophole that gives her two years to show that she has renounced her U.S. citizenship.)

Propaganda over Reality

Yet, as good as propaganda can be especially when the U.S. government and mainstream media are moving in lockstep reality is not always easily managed. Ukraine’s continuing and some say worsening corruption prompted last month’s trip to Ukraine by Vice President Joe Biden who gave a combination lecture and pep talk to Ukraine’s parliament.

Of course, Biden has his own Ukraine cronyism problem because three months after the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Yanukovych government Ukraine’s largest private gas firm, Burisma Holdings, appointed his son, Hunter Biden, to its board of directors.

Burisma a shadowy Cyprus-based company also lined up well-connected lobbyists, some with ties to Secretary of State John Kerry, including Kerry’s former Senate chief of staff David Leiter, according to lobbying disclosures.

As Time magazine reported, “Leiter’s involvement in the firm rounds out a power-packed team of politically-connected Americans that also includes a second new board member, Devon Archer, a Democratic bundler and former adviser to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Both Archer and Hunter Biden have worked as business partners with Kerry’s son-in-law, Christopher Heinz, the founding partner of Rosemont Capital, a private-equity company.”

According to investigative journalism inside Ukraine, the ownership of Burisma has been traced to Privat Bank, which is controlled by the thuggish billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky, who was appointed by the U.S.-backed “reform” regime to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a south-central province of Ukraine (though Kolomoisky was eventually ousted from that post in a power struggle over control of UkrTransNafta, Ukraine’s state-owned oil pipeline operator).

In his December speech, Biden lauded the sacrifice of the 100 or so protesters who died during the Maidan clashes in February 2014, referring to them by their laudatory name “The Heavenly Hundred.” But Biden made no heavenly references to the estimated 10,000 people, mostly ethnic Russians, who have been slaughtered in the U.S.-encouraged “Anti-Terror Operation” waged by the coup regime against eastern Ukrainians who objected to the violent ouster of President Yanukovych, who had won large majorities in those areas.

Apparently, heaven is not as eager to welcome ethnic Russian victims of U.S.-inspired political violence. Nor did Biden take note that some of the Heavenly Hundred were street fighters for neo-Nazi and other far-right nationalist organizations.

But after making his sugary references to The Heavenly Hundred Biden delivered his bitter medicine, an appeal for the parliament to continue implementing IMF “reforms,” including demands that old people work longer into their old age.

Biden said, “For Ukraine to continue to make progress and to keep the support of the international community you have to do more, as well. The big part of moving forward with your IMF program — it requires difficult reforms. And they are difficult.

“Let me say parenthetically here, all the experts from our State Department and all the think tanks, and they come and tell you, that you know what you should do is you should deal with pensions. You should deal with — as if it’s easy to do. Hell, we’re having trouble in America dealing with it. We’re having trouble. To vote to raise the pension age is to write your political obituary in many places.

“Don’t misunderstand that those of us who serve in other democratic institutions don’t understand how hard the conditions are, how difficult it is to cast some of the votes to meet the obligations committed to under the IMF. It requires sacrifices that might not be politically expedient or popular. But they’re critical to putting Ukraine on the path to a future that is economically secure. And I urge you to stay the course as hard as it is. Ukraine needs a budget that’s consistent with your IMF commitments.”

Eroding Support

But more and more Ukrainians appear to see through the charade in Kiev, as the poll numbers on the corruption crisis soar. Meanwhile, European officials seem to be growing impatient with the Ukraine crisis which has added to the drag on the Continent’s economies because the Obama administration strong-armed the E.U. into painful economic sanctions against Russia, which had come to the defense of the embattled ethnic Russians in the east.

“Many E.U. officials are fed up with Ukraine,” said one Western official quoted by the Journal, which added that “accusations of graft by anticorruption activists, journalists and diplomats have followed to the new government.”

The Journal said those implicated include some early U.S. favorites, such as Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, “whose ratings have plummeted to single digits amid allegations in the media and among anticorruption activists of his associates’ corrupt dealings. Mr. Yatsenyuk has denied any involvement in corruption and his associates, one of whom resigned from parliament over the controversy this month, deny wrongdoing.”

The controversy over Yatsenyuk’s alleged cronyism led to an embarrassing moment in December 2015 when an anti-Yatsenyuk lawmaker approached the podium with a bouquet of roses, which the slightly built Yatsenyuk accepted only to have the lawmaker lift him up and try to carry him from the podium.

In many ways, the Ukraine crisis represents just another failure of neocon-driven “regime change,” which has also spread chaos across the Middle East and northern Africa. But the neocons appear to have even a bigger target in their sites, another “regime change” in Moscow, with Ukraine just a preliminary move. Of course, that scheme could put in play nuclear war.

Taking Aim

The Ukraine “regime change” took shape in 2013 after Russian President Putin and President Barack Obama collaborated to tamp down crises in Syria and Iran, two other prime targets for neocon “regime changes.” American neocons were furious that those hopes were dashed. Ukraine became Putin’s payback.

In fall 2013, the neocons took aim at Ukraine, recognizing its extreme sensitivity to Russia which had seen previous invasions, including by the Nazis in World War II, pass through the plains of Ukraine and into Russia. Carl Gershman, neocon president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, cited Ukraine as the “biggest prize” and a key step toward unseating Putin in Moscow. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What the Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]

Initially, the hope was that Yanukovych would lead Ukraine into an economic collaboration with Europe while cutting ties to Russia. But Yanukovych received a warning from top Ukrainian economists that a hasty split with neighboring Russia would cost the country a staggering $160 billion in lost income.

So, Yanukovych sought to slow down the process, prompting angry protests especially from western Ukrainians who descended on Maidan square. Though initially peaceful, neo-Nazi and other nationalist militias soon infiltrated the protests and began ratcheting up the violence, including burning police with Molotov cocktails.

Meanwhile, U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations, such as the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (which receives money from USAID and hedge-fund billionaire George Soros’s Open Society), hammered away at alleged corruption in the Yanukovych government.

In December 2013, Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” and in an intercepted phone call in early February 2014 she discussed with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who Ukraine’s new leaders would be.

“Yats is the guy,” Nuland said of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as she also disparaged a less aggressive approach by the European Union with the pithy phrase: “Fuck the E.U.” (Nuland, a former aide to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, is the wife of arch-neoconservative ideologue Robert Kagan.)

Sen. John McCain also urged on the protests, telling one group of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists that they had America’s backing. And, the West’s mainstream media fell in love with the Maidan protesters as innocent white hats and thus blamed the worsening violence on Yanukovych. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]

Urging Restraint

In Biden’s December 2015 speech to the parliament, he confirmed that he personally pressed on President Yanukovych the need to avoid violence. “I was literally on the phone with your former President urging restraint,” Biden said.

However, on Feb. 20, 2014, mysterious snipers apparently from buildings controlled by the far right fired on and killed policemen as well as some protesters. The bloodshed sparked other violent clashes as armed rioters battled with retreating police.

Although the dead included some dozen police officers, the violence was blamed on Yanukovych, who insisted that he had ordered the police not to use lethal force in line with Biden’s appeal. But the State Department and the West’s mainstream media made Yanukovych the black-hatted villain.

The next day, Feb. 21, Yanukovych signed an accord negotiated and guaranteed by three European nations to accept reduced powers and early elections so he could be voted out of office if that was the public’s will. However, as police withdrew from the Maidan, the rioters, led by neo-Nazi militias called sotins, stormed government buildings on Feb. 22, forcing Yanukovych and other officials to flee for their lives.

In the West’s mainstream media, these developments were widely hailed as a noble “revolution” and with lumps in their throats many journalists averted their misty eyes from the key role played by unsavory neo-Nazis, so as not to dampen the happy narrative (although BBC was among the few MSM outlets that touched on this inconvenient reality).

Ever since, the major U.S. news media has stayed fully on board, ignoring evidence that what happened was a U.S.-sponsored coup. The MSM simply explains all the trouble as a case of naked “Russian aggression.

There were kudos, too, when “reformer” Natalie Jaresko was made Finance Minister along with other foreign “technocrats.” There was no attention paid to evidence about the dark underside of the Ukrainian “revolution of dignity,” as Biden called it.

Though the neo-Nazis sometimes even teamed up with Islamic jihadists were the tip of the spear slashing through eastern Ukraine, their existence was either buried deep inside stories or dismissed as “Russian propaganda.”

That was, in effect, American propaganda and, as clever as it was, it could only control reality for so long.

Even though the fuller truth about Ukraine has never reached the American people, there comes a point when even the best propagandists have to start modifying their rosy depictions. Ukraine appears to have reached that moment.

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).




Saudi Game-Changing Head-Chopping

Exclusive: Saudi Arabia likes to distinguish itself from the head-choppers of the Islamic State but the recent mass executions, including decapitating a top Shiite dissident, reveals the Saudi royals to be just better-dressed jihadists, while creating an opening for a U.S. realignment in the Mideast, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

For generations, U.S. officials have averted their eyes from Saudi Arabia’s grotesque monarchy which oppresses women, spreads jihadism and slaughters dissidents in a crude trade-off of Saudi oil for American weapons and U.S. security guarantees. It is a deal with the devil that may finally be coming due.

The increasingly undeniable reality is that the Saudis along with other oil sheikhs are the biggest backers of Al Qaeda and various terrorist groups helping these killers as long as they spread their mayhem in other countries and not bother the spoiled playboys of the Persian Gulf.

President George W. Bush and then President Barack Obama may have suppressed the 28 pages of the congressional 9/11 report describing Saudi support for Al Qaeda and its hijackers but the cat is thoroughly out of the bag. Mealy-mouthed comments from the State Department spokesmen can no longer hide the grim truth that U.S. “allies” are really civilization’s enemies.

The big question that remains, however, is: Will Official Washington’s dominant neocon/liberal-interventionist claque continue to protect the Saudis who have built a regional alliance of convenience with Israel over their shared hatred of Iran?

Inside Official Washington’s bubble where the neocons and liberal hawks hold sway there is a determination to make the “designated villains,” the Iranians, the Syrian government, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Russians. This list of “villains” matches up quite well with Israeli and Saudi interests and thus endless demonization of these “villains” remains the order of the day.

But the Saudis and indeed the Israelis are showing what they’re really made of. Israel has removed its humanistic mask as it ruthlessly suppresses Palestinians and mounts periodic “grass mowing” operations, using high-tech munitions to slaughter thousands of nearly defenseless people in Gaza and the West Bank while no longer even pretending to want a peaceful resolution of the long-simmering conflict. Israel’s choice now seems to be apartheid or genocide.

Meanwhile, the Saudis though long-hailed in Official Washington as “moderates” are showing what a farcical description that has always been as the royals now supply U.S.-made TOW missiles and other sophisticated weapons to Sunni jihadists in Syria, fighting alongside Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Using advanced U.S.-supplied warplanes, the Saudis also have been pulverizing poverty-stricken Yemen after exaggerating the level of Iranian support to the Houthis, who have been fighting both a Saudi-backed regime and Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate. Amid the Saudi-inflicted humanitarian crisis, Al Qaeda’s forces have expanded their territory.

And, at the start of the New Year, the Saudi monarchy butchered 47 prisoners, including prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr for his offense of criticizing the royals, or as the Saudis like to say without a touch of irony supporting “terrorism.” By chopping off Nimr’s head as well as shooting and decapitating the others the Saudis demonstrated that there is very little qualitative difference between them and the head-choppers of the Islamic State.

The Usual Suspects

Yes, the usual suspects in Official Washington have sought to muddle the blood-soaked picture by condemning angry Iranian protesters for ransacking the Saudi embassy in Tehran before the government security forces intervened. And there will surely be an escalation of condemnations of anyone who suggests normalizing relations with Iran.

But the issue for the neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks is whether they can continue to spin obviously false narratives about the nobility of these Middle East “allies,” including Israel. Is there a limit to what they can put over on the American people? At some point, will they risk losing whatever shreds of credibility that they still have? Or perhaps the calculation will be that public credibility is irrelevant, power and control are everything.

A similar choice must be made by politicians, including those running for the White House.

Some Republican candidates, most notably Sen. Marco Rubio, have gone all-in with the neocons, hoping to secure largesse from casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and other staunch supporters of Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the other hand, real-estate magnate Donald Trump has distanced himself from neocon orthodoxy, even welcoming Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict to fight the Islamic State, heresy in Official Washington.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most closely associated with the neocons and the liberal hawks and she has dug in on the issue of their beloved “regime change” strategy, which she insists must be applied to Syria.

She appears to have learned nothing from her misguided support for the Iraq War, nor from her participation in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi’s secular regime in Libya, both of which created vacuums that the Islamic State and other extremists filled. (British special forces are being deployed to Libya as part of an offensive to reclaim Libyan oil fields from the Islamic State.)

A Sanders Opportunity

The Saudi decision to chop off Sheikh Nimr’s head and slaughter 46 other people in one mass execution also puts Sen. Bernie Sanders on the spot over his glib call for the Saudis “to get their hands dirty” and intervene militarily across the region.

That may have been a clever talking point, calling on the rich Saudis to put some skin in the game, but it missed the point that even before the Nimr execution the Saudis’ hands were very dirty, indeed covered in blood.

For Sanders to see the Saudis as part of the solution to the Mideast chaos ignores the reality that they are a big part of the problem. Not only has Saudi Arabia funded the extreme, fundamentalist Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam building mosques and schools around the Muslim world but Al Qaeda and many other jihadist groups are, in essence, Saudi paramilitary forces dispatched to undermine governments on Riyadh’s hit list.

That has been the case since the 1980s when the Saudis along with the Reagan administration  invested billions of dollars in support of the brutal mujahedeen in Afghanistan with the goal of overthrowing a secular, Soviet-backed government in Kabul.

Though the “regime change” worked the secular leader Najibullah was castrated and his body hung from a light pole in Kabul the eventual outcome was the emergence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, led by a Saudi scion, Osama bin Laden.

Though Sanders has resisted articulating a detailed foreign policy instead seeking to turn questions back to his preferred topic of income inequality the latest Saudi barbarism gives him a new chance to distinguish himself from front-runner Clinton. He could show courage and call for a realignment based on reality, not propaganda.

President Obama, too, has a final chance to refashion the outdated and counter-productive U.S. alliances in the Middle East. At least he could rebalance them to allow a pragmatic relationship with Iran and Russia to stabilize Syria and neutralize the Saudi-backed jihadists.

Standing Up, Not Bowing Down

Instead of being supplicants to Saudi riches and oil, the West could apply stern measures against the Saudi royals to compel their acquiescence to a real anti-terrorist coalition. If they don’t comply immediately, their assets could be frozen and seized; they could be barred from foreign travel; they could be isolated until they agreed to behave in a civilized manner, including setting aside ancient animosities between Sunni and Shiite Islam.

It seems the European public is beginning to move in this direction, in part, because the Saudi-led destabilization of Syria has dumped millions of desperate refugees on the European Union’s doorstep. If a new course isn’t taken, the E.U. itself might split apart.

But the power of the neocon/liberal-hawk establishment in Official Washington remains strong and has prevented the American people from achieving anything close to a full understanding of what is going on in the Middle East.

The ultimate barrier to an informed U.S. public may also be the enormous power of the Israel Lobby, which operates what amounts to a blacklist against anyone who dares criticize Israeli behavior and harbors hopes of ever holding a confirmable government position or for that matter a prominent job in the mainstream media.

It would be a test of true political courage and patriotism for some major politician or prominent pundit to finally take on these intimidating forces. That likely won’t happen, but Saudi Arabia’s latest head-choppings have created the possibility, finally, for a game-changing realignment.

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).




Failed US Sanctions on Russia

The U.S. mainstream media excludes almost all reporting and analysis that challenges the neocon/liberal-interventionist “group think” about the supposed Russian threat, but once in awhile a backhand acknowledgement of reality slips through, as Gilbert Doctorow was surprised to find.

By Gilbert Doctorow

The newest issue of Foreign Affairs continues to show a significant drop-off of professionalism in the mostly Russia-phobic essays at the flagship American magazine on international relations. Yet as low-grade as these essays may be, one of them is highly damaging to the dominant Washington narrative against Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Emma Ashford, a visiting research fellow at the neoliberal/libertarian Cato Institute, produced an essay that is a jumble of statistics and arguments, many of them contradictory, and all of them set out without prioritization. The author clearly lacks experience and judgment. But what makes this essay newsworthy is that hit or miss the author is going up against the U.S. establishment and directly calling for an end to U.S. sanctions against Russia.

If I may sequence her arguments properly, the sanctions a) have been totally useless in changing Russian foreign and military policy in the directions desired by the U.S., b) they have caused very little damage to the Russian economy but much harm to immediate European and American economic interests, and c) they have caused the Russians to join with other BRICS members in creating institutions and pursuing financial practices that ultimately will undermine U.S. global hegemony, thereby compromising America’s future.

Along the way, Ashford agrees with IMF predictions that “even with continued low oil prices growth will return to the Russian economy in 2016.” This means the sectoral prohibitions have not impaired the economy in the ways intended.

The author notes that Moscow circumvented the sanctions partly by turning to China, where it concluded a $400 billion gas deal, a 150 billion yuan currency swap and other major agreements. Moreover, the sanctions on individual targeted companies have been compensated by largess from the Kremlin so as to attenuate any losses.

And the travel bans and property arrests on targeted members of the elite have only been a minor nuisance, which never provoked them to turn against their president. Looking to the future, Ashford does not expect the sanctions to eventually work, calling that “wishful thinking.”

The essay goes off the rails when Ashford tries to explain the “costs of containment” to the U.S. and its allies in Europe, which she characterizes as “major.” Next we read that in Europe the European Commission estimates that sanctions cut growth by 0.3 per cent of GDP in 2015. Perhaps even she understands that is not much, so Ashford tries again by citing predictions from the Austrian Institute of Economic Research that continuing the sanctions on Russia may cost Europe “over 90 billion euros in export revenue and more than two million jobs over the next few years.”  Predictions about the “next few years” are not the kind of hard data that normally moves politicians.

And she trots out the widely cited figure of 400,000 German jobs that are at risk over sanctions. Still more vaguely, she speaks of how major European banks like Société Générale in France and Raiffeisen in Austria may be destabilized and require state bailouts if their large loans to Russian concerns become uncollectible due to borrowers’ insolvency.  Turning to the U.S., Ashford directs attention to the administrative and legal costs that American banks have to bear as they enforce regulations calling for freezing and managing the assets of sanctioned individuals. They have had to hire additional legal and technical staff to ensure they are in conformity with the myriad of sanctions and thus avoid rippling penalties from the federal authorities for the least error of execution. At what cost? Not a word, although that is obviously a difficult measure to quantify.

Meanwhile U.S. energy companies are suffering foregone (not specified) profits by being unable to pursue the large exploration and production contracts they had concluded with Russian counterparts. And they may possibly lose the multi-billion-dollar investments they made in such projects before the sanctions came into effect. Still, there is no reason to see any of this as crippling punishment for U.S. energy companies.

I think it is fairly obvious that all of the foregoing “costs” for the U.S. and its allies are not much more than mosquito bites. By presenting them as she does, the author shows lack of discernment in what constitutes proof to justify a dramatic change in direction of a fundamental foreign policy stand by the U.S.

But her lapse of professionalism does not end there: Ashford moves on, falling into glaring logical inconsistencies. We are told that the sanctions “may harm European energy security.” Specifically, Ashford cites a prediction from Cambridge Energy Research Associates that as a result of sanctions Russian oil production may drop from 10.5 million barrels a day today to 7.6 million barrels in 2025.

This does not jibe with her remarks earlier in the essay on how the Russians were circumventing sanctions: “Russia has been able to find loopholes .[and] in order to obtain access to Arctic drilling equipment and expertise, Rosneft acquired 30 percent of the North Atlantic drilling projects belonging to the Norwegian company Statoil.”

Nor does this jibe with her assertion at the end of her essay when setting out her recommendations on what punitive measures should replace sanctions if we accept that they have been a failure. There she urges the U.S. to export oil and liquefied natural gas to Europe so as “to provide Europe with an alternative source of energy” and “to starve the Russian state of revenue.” This would, she says “allow European states to wean themselves off Russian oil and gas.”

One of these positions may be correct, but they cannot all be correct, and it should not be up to the reader to choose from this Chinese restaurant menu.

Given the unimpressive nature of Ashford’s arguments against sanctions coming from their past and present economic consequences, her real knock-out blow against sanctions comes in the completely different and unquantifiable area of argumentation that is political and geopolitical. She faults the sanctions for prompting a “rally round the flag” phenomenon in Russia that has, perversely, raised President Putin’s approval rating from 63 percent in March 2014 when Russia took possession of Crimea to 88 percent in October 2015. His power, which theoretically should have been shaken by the U.S. and E.U. sanctions, has instead consolidated.

The sanctions also encouraged Russia to take actions to protect its financial institutions that ultimately will threaten the global economic influence of the United States. These measures include the creation of an alternative international payment system to SWIFT, the creation of a domestic credit-card clearing house that challenges Visa and MasterCard, and the creation of a BRICS development bank that duplicates the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The net effect of these actions, once implemented, will be to cause the United States “to have a harder time employing economic statecraft,” by which she means imposing crippling financial sanctions on other states as they succeeded in doing to Iran. In the same vein, Ashford sees a threat in Russia’s shift away from trading in dollars.

Ashford’s recommendation, the true punch-line of the article, is that “the United States should cut its losses and unilaterally lift the majority of the sanctions on Russia.” This advice surely will set off alarms within the Beltway.

In that sense, Ashford’s essay may have dealt even a harder blow against Washington’s “sanction Russia” consensus than did John Mearsheimer’s iconoclastic Foreign Affairs article from 2014, “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” a top-drawer essay that caused dyspeptic fits and sparked a lively debate in the follow-on issue of the magazine.

Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator, American Committee for East West Accord, Ltd. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future?(August 2015) is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.com and affiliated websites. For donations to support the European activities of ACEWA, write to eastwestaccord@gmail.com. © Gilbert Doctorow, 2015




How Obama Enables Atrocities

Exclusive: President Obama seems so scared of offending the Saudis and their Israeli allies that he will tolerate almost any outrage, including Saudi Arabia’s mass beheadings and/or shootings of the regime’s enemies including a Shiite political leader who dared criticize the monarchy, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

As the New Year dawns, the neocons and their liberal interventionist sidekicks remain firmly in control of Official Washington’s storylines on Syria, Russia and elsewhere even as their policies continue to wreak havoc across the Mideast and threaten the stability of Europe and indeed the future of civilization.

The latest proof of this dangerous reality came when Saudi Arabia’s repressive Sunni monarchy executed prominent Shiite political leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr for criticizing the nation’s kings and princes. Before the killing, the Obama administration held its tongue in public so as not to antagonize the Saudi royals. (Nimr’s nephew awaits Saudi “crucifixion” for his role as a teenager in Arab Spring protests.)

After the Nimr execution, the State Department issued a mild protest toward the Saudis while blurring the guilt by twinning it with criticism of Iran where outraged protesters damaged the Saudi embassy, which led to Saudi Arabia’s retaliatory breaking of relations with Iran.

“We believe that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remain essential in working through differences,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said meekly on Sunday, while some senior U.S. officials reportedly seethed in private over the latest Saudi provocation.

“This is a dangerous game they are playing,” one official told The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung while insisting on anonymity to discuss U.S.-Saudi relations.

But the fact that the Obama administration could not voice its revulsion over the Saudi mass head-chopping (along with some firing squads) for 47 men, including Nimr, over the weekend speaks volumes. President Barack Obama and other insiders continue to tip-toe around the unsavory U.S. “alliances” in the Mideast.

Over the past several years, Saudi Arabia sealed its impervious protection from U.S. government criticism by forming an undeclared alliance with Israel around their mutual hatred of Shiite-ruled Iran and its Shiite allies, a cause picked up by American neocons and shared by the career-oriented liberal interventionists.

Some more “realist-oriented” U.S. officials, reportedly including Obama and some national security aides, recognize the havoc that neocon/liberal-hawk strategies continue to wreak across the region and now spreading into Europe, but they act powerless to do anything bold to stop it.

With Israel’s lobby siding with the Sunni states in their bloody rivalry with Shiite states, most U.S. politicians and pundits have scrambled to defend each recurring outrage by the Saudis, Qataris and Turks by trying to flip the script and somehow put the blame on Iran, Syria and Russia.

Getting a Pass

Thus, the Saudis, Qataris and Turks get mostly a pass for arming and enabling radical jihadists, including Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Israel also provides assistance to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front along the Golan Heights and bombs allies of the Syrian government and, of course, faces no official U.S. criticism.

In 2014, when Vice President Joe Biden blurted out the truth about Saudi support for Islamic terrorism inside Syria, he was the one who had to apologize. [Quote at 53:20 of clip.] In 2015, when Saudi Arabia invaded and bombed Yemen after hyping Iran’s support for Houthi rebels, the Obama administration sided with the Saudis even as their wanton attacks on poverty-stricken Yemen killed thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian crisis.

For more than a year after President Obama announced his air war against the Islamic State in summer 2014, Turkey continued to let the terror group run an industrial-style oil smuggling operation from Syria and Iraq through Turkey. Only when Russia entered the conflict last fall was the U.S. government shamed into joining in bombing raids to destroy the truck convoys. Yet, Obama still defended Turkey and bought its promises about finally trying to seal a 100-kilometer gap in its border.

Then, when Turkey retaliated against the Russian anti-terrorist bombing raids inside Syria by willfully shooting down a Russian Su-24 plane whose pilot was murdered after bailing out, Obama again sided with the Turks even though their claim that the Russian plane had violated Turkish air space was dubious at best. By their account, the plane had intruded over a sliver of Turkish territory for 17 seconds.

In other words, whatever these U.S. “allies” do no matter how brutal and reckless the Obama administration at least publicly rushes to their defense. Otherwise, the neocon/liberal-hawk “group think” would be offended and many angry editorials and columns would follow.

While this strange reality may make sense inside Official Washington where careerism is intense and offending the Israel Lobby is a sure career killer this pusillanimous approach to these grave problems is endangering U.S. national interests as well as the world’s future.

Not only has the neocon/liberal-interventionist obsession with “regime change” turned the Middle East into a vast killing field but it has now spread instability into Europe, where the fabric of the European Union is being shredded by dissension over how to handle millions of Syrian refugees.

The United Kingdom may vote to leave the E.U., removing one of the original anchors of the European project which — for all its faults — has deservedly gotten credit for replacing a history of European blood-soaked conflicts with peaceful cooperation.

The spreading disorder has had political repercussions in the United States, too, where panic over terrorism is reshaping the presidential race.

Yet, instead of practical solutions such as pressuring all rational sides in the Syrian conflict to engage in peace talks and hold free elections that give the Syrian people the power to decide who their future leaders will be, Official Washington instead generates “talking points,” such as calling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “magnet for terrorism” who “must go” although his forces have done the most to stop an outright victory by Al Qaeda and Islamic State.

If one buys this “magnet” theory, then you’d also have to seek “regime change” in every country that’s been attacked by terrorists, including the United States, France, United Kingdom, Spain, etc. In the case of Syria, what’s remarkable is that the sponsorship of terrorism by U.S. “allies” and indeed by the U.S. government itself has been so blatant. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Climbing into Bed with Al Qaeda.”]

However, as far as Official Washington is concerned, it doesn’t really matter what Assad has or hasn’t done. What’s important is that “regime change” in Syria has been on the neocons’ to-do list since at least the mid-1990s along with the brilliant idea of “regime change” in Iraq. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How Israel Out-Foxed US Presidents.”].

The Infallible Neocons

And since the neocons are infallible as far as they’re concerned the goal can’t be changed. The only option is to escalate the “regime change” planning to include other countries that get in the way, including Iran and now nuclear-armed Russia.

Yes, that’s the ultimate neocon idea make the Russian economy scream, overthrow the calculating Vladimir Putin and risk having him replaced by some extreme and unstable nationalist with his or her hand on the nuclear button. That may be how life on the planet ends but there will be evermore “group thinks” and “talking points” right up to the moment of Armageddon. The neocons can never stop generating false narratives.

Meanwhile, the “liberal interventionists” can boast of their own “regime change” in Libya, a policy promoted by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who delighted at the gruesome torture-murder of Muammar Gaddafi “we came, we saw, he died,” she laughed  after having ignored his warnings that the overthrow of his secular government would open the oil-rich country to chaos from radical jihadists, a prediction that has been fulfilled.

Yet, despite this record of spreading chaos and death around the world, the grip that the neocons and liberal hawks have on Official Washington remains almost absolute. They control most of the think tanks from the Brookings Institution to the American Enterprise Institute as well as the editorial pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times and pretty much the rest of the mainstream media.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Times’ “news” coverage of the Middle East and Russia has been consistently slanted to favor neocon/liberal-hawk positions. Just as the Times eagerly joined President George W. Bush’s bogus case for invading Iraq in 2003, “the newspaper of record” has peddled false and misleading articles about the crises in Syria and Ukraine as well as promoting anti-Russian propaganda.

In this climate of manufactured “reality,” any old-fashioned foreign policy “realist” especially one who has criticized Israel cannot expect to win Senate confirmation to any senior position, establishing what amounts to a blacklist against “realists,” such as happened to ex-U.S. Ambassador Chas Freeman whose intelligence appointment was dropped by Obama in his early days out of fear of offending the Israel Lobby and its many neocon backers.

As the rise of those neocons has played out since their emergence during the Reagan administration, the “realists” who were known for cold-hearted foreign policy calculations to protect American interests have aged, died out or otherwise disappeared. They have been largely replaced by ideologues, either neocons with their intense devotion to right-wing Israeli interests or liberal interventionists who almost invariably side with the neocons but cite “humanitarian” concerns to justify “regime change” wars.

Blocking Obama

No matter how foolhardy and deadly these policy prescriptions have been, there is almost no way to dislodge the neocons and liberal hawks inside Official Washington, since they monopolize almost all levers of political and media power.

Even when President Obama tried to collaborate under the table with President Putin to reduce tensions in Syria and Iran in 2013, Obama was quickly outmaneuvered by neocons and liberal hawks inside the State Department who pushed for the putsch in Ukraine in 2014 that effectively destroyed the Obama-Putin cooperation. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]

I have long argued that the only way to begin to challenge the neocon/liberal-hawk “group thinks” is to release facts about pivotal events, such as the 2013 Syria-sarin case, the 2014 sniper attacks at Kiev’s Maidan square, and the 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine. The neocons/liberal hawks currently control all those narratives, using them as clubs to advance ideological agendas just as they did with the false claims about Iraq’s WMD. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Power of False Narrative.”]

But other evidence suggests very different scenarios. Obama and his national security team could either release evidence to confirm the accuracy of the “group thinks” or puncture that self-certainty. Instead Obama has chosen to withhold what the U.S. intelligence community knows about these events, all the better to protect the dominant propaganda narratives.

So, the Obama administration continues down a road of tolerating or condoning outrages by its Mideast “allies” as the President and his timid intelligence bureaucrats do nothing to empower the American people with the truth. It is a recipe for worldwide catastrophe.

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).




Hyping More Fears about Iran

Official Washington’s neocon/liberal-hawk establishment is working itself into another lather over Iran, this time by hyping fears about a ballistic missile program as another backdoor way to sabotage the Iran-nuclear agreement, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains.

By Paul R. Pillar

There are several important things to understand about ballistic missiles and Iran, beyond the fact that this topic has become one of the latest on which those who want Iran to be an ostracized and feared pariah forever, and who still want to kill the agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program, have seized.

Ballistic missiles are any projectiles that follow, after an initial powered and guided phase, a ballistic trajectory. Devices with this name include an enormously wide variety of sizes, ranges and capabilities. They run from short-range battlefield weapons to missiles with intercontinental range.

Ballistic missiles are in the armed forces of many states. They have become important and accepted parts of the defense posture of many states. Most of those states do not have what are commonly called weapons of mass destruction, and the missiles in their arsenals are not intended or designed to be used with such weapons. Instead they are part of a standard conventional defense strategy. If there is a genie involved with ballistic missiles, it has long been way, way out of the bottle.

Scary rhetoric about Iran has repeatedly referred to the supposed prospect of an Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile, evidently to try to get Americans to believe that Iranian missile programs pose a threat to the United States. Such rhetoric bears little or no resemblance to what the Iranians have been doing in the way of development and testing of ballistic missiles.

As missile expert Greg Thielmann, who studies the Iranian program closely, has concluded, an Iranian ICBM “is nowhere in sight.” Iranian work on missiles has focused on shorter-range systems that are more relevant to Iran’s defense needs within its own neighborhood.

Those needs, and how Iranian leaders perceive them, are shaped by a painful history of neighbors using ballistic missiles against Iran and by the prospect that missile-armed neighbors might use such weapons again. The Iran-Iraq war, begun by Saddam Hussein’s aggression against Iran in 1980, included several rounds of the “war of the cities” in which civilian populations were subject to bombardment from the air.

Iraq used manned aircraft as well as ballistic missiles to attack Iranian cities, but during the later phases of the war the destruction of cities came mainly from Iraq’s missiles. It is impossible to come up with an accurate figure of losses sustained by these missile strikes amid what was a very bloody war overall, but probably in even just the first round of the war of the cities in 1984, civilian casualties numbered in the tens of thousands.

In the Persian Gulf region it was Saudi Arabia that made the single biggest move in the proliferation of ballistic missiles: its then-secret purchase in the 1980s from China of intermediate-range CSS-2 missiles. Today, Iranian leaders look across the Gulf at their regional rivals in Saudi Arabia and see a substantial missile force incorporating technology from China and Pakistan. It would be a non-starter for any Iranian leader, regardless of his politics or ideology, to disavow continued efforts to try to improve and develop Iran’s own force.

Additional confusion from the sort of rhetoric one hears today concerns exactly how missiles do and do not relate to the recently concluded nuclear agreement. That agreement, one of the signal achievements on behalf of nuclear nonproliferation, was achieved only by the parties agreeing to focus on the nuclear issue itself rather than wading into other grievances that the parties have against each other.

Those include not only Western grievances against Iran but also Iranian grievances against the West and the United States, some of which have to do with U.S. military activities in Iran’s immediate neighborhood. Missiles, like a lot of other issues that each side may have otherwise been anxious to raise, were not the target of the nuclear agreement.

Despite frequent references today to Iranian missile tests as a “violation,” they do not constitute any violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (i.e., the nuclear agreement) or of the two-year-old preliminary agreement. In fact they do not involve a violation of anything that Iran has agreed to. Iran has never been under any obligation to help sanction itself.

And it is only as sanctions that the issue of missiles legitimately comes up at all in connection with the nuclear agreement. An embargo on export to Iran of missile-related materiel and a variety of other types of conventional armaments was part of a host of nuclear-related sanctions specified in a series of resolutions of the United Nations Security Council enacted prior to the beginning of the negotiations that led to the JCPOA.

So was a call in a resolution in 2010 for Iran itself not to engage in missile development activity. All of these sanctions, like the other nuclear-related sanctions, were intended to induce Tehran to negotiate restrictions on its nuclear program. In that respect they were no different from sanctions involving banking access or pistachio exports.

The missile-related sanctions had the added purpose of freezing or retarding any possible development of Iranian missiles that could be used to deliver nuclear weapons, as long as there was not yet an agreement precluding Iran from producing the fissile material that would be needed for such a weapon.

Now there is such an agreement. The reason for the nuclear-related sanctions no longer exists. If the principle of ending nuclear-related sanctions in return for Iran accepting the tight restrictions and intrusive monitoring provided for in the JCPOA were to be completely observed, then all of those sanctions, including the ones involving missiles, would end once Iran completes, which it might as early as the next couple of months, the measures it is obliged to complete before the accord is implemented.

But somewhere along the line the subject of missiles and conventional armaments acquired a life of its own, with political pressure especially on the U.S. side not to give up those sanctions any time soon no matter what Iran does to dismantle key parts of its nuclear program. Thus there ensued some of the toughest negotiations before the JCPOA could be completed.

In what has to be considered a major concession by Iran, it finally was agreed to let the embargo related to missiles run for another eight years, and the one covering other conventional arms five years. These are still all nuclear-related sanctions, even if their removal is being delayed despite Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement.

International efforts, and not just those aimed at Iran, to restrict development of ballistic missiles always have been motivated by concerns about missiles that could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction and especially nuclear weapons. That concern has been the focus and rationale of the Missile Technology Control Regime, the principal international effort to check the proliferation of advanced ballistic missiles.

Iranian ballistic missiles pose no threat to U.S. interests as long as Iran does not have the fissile material to build nuclear weapons that could be put atop any of those missiles. Preventing such a nuclear capability is, of course, what the JCPOA is all about. It thus would be a stupidly counterproductive approach to let issues about missiles endanger the implementation and longevity of the JCPOA.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)




Hearing the Russian Perspective

The neocons and liberal hawks who dominate the U.S. foreign policy and media establishment are pushing the world toward a nuclear showdown with Russia as few people hear a comprehensive response from the other side, an imbalance that a new Russian documentary addresses, writes Gilbert Doctorow.

By Gilbert Doctorow

Without mincing words, the new Russian documentary World Order is a devastating critique of U.S. global hegemony justified in the name of “democracy promotion” and “human rights” ever since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992.

It is directly in line with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first repudiation of the American unipolar world issued in his speech to the Munich Security Conference in February 2007 and his further, ever more explicit exposés in a succession of speeches that challenged specific manifestations of “American exceptionalism.”

World Order, which is now posted on YouTube (in Russian) and at another site (with English subtitles), illustrates through graphic footage and the testimony of independent world authorities the tragic consequences, the spread of chaos and misery, resulting from U.S.-engineered “regime change” and “color revolutions,” of which the violent overthrow of the Yanukovich regime in Ukraine in February 2014 is only the latest example. (Some of the highlights from Putin’s interview are translated into English here and here.)

The title of the film follows on Putin’s address to the 70th anniversary gathering of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 which had as its central message that world order rests on international law, which in turn has as its foundation the UN Charter.

By flouting the Charter and waging war without the sanction of the UN Security Council, starting with the NATO attack on Serbia in 1999 and continuing with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 up to its illegal bombings in Syria today, the United States and its NATO allies have shaken the foundations of international law.

As set out in World Order, Putin’s identification of the root cause of the failure to bring the U.S. back to reason lies not in given individuals, like Barack Obama or George W. Bush, but in the mentality of Western, and in particular American elites formed by their impunity, their ability to walk away from the catastrophes their policies create without any feeling of responsibility, without being held to account. Their evasion of responsibility and failure to learn from error come from being the richest and militarily most powerful nation on earth.

World Order presents dramatic evidence of the brutality which flows from American policies when functioning if flawed states are converted into failed states through color revolutions, as has happened across the Middle East and North Africa since the new millennium. We are shown Saddam Hussein’s final moments before execution, then the denunciation of this judicial murder by Muammar Gaddafi before a laughing audience of Arab League deputies, then the barbaric mob murder of Gaddafi himself followed by the exultant face of Hillary Clinton after this triumph of U.S. foreign policy.

We also listen to Gaddafi’s detailed prediction of the vast flood of refugees and spread of jihadists in North Africa that would follow should his regime be toppled. And we are given video footage from the 2015 refugee flows into Europe with their mob scenes at state borders that bear out those warnings.

Diverse Points of View

The foreign interviewees in World Order comprise an impressive and diverse selection of leaders in various domains, including American film director Oliver Stone; Thomas Graham, former National Security Council director for Russia under George W. Bush and current managing director at Kissinger Associates; former IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn; former Pakistan President Perwez Musharraf; former French Foreign Minister Dominique Villepin; former Israeli President Shimon Peres; Wikileaks founder Julian Assange; and deputy leader of the Die Linke party in the German Bundestag Sahra Wagenknecht. Others, like UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, put in cameo appearances.

Strauss-Kahn, Musharraf and others charge that the U.S. plots against and destroys foreign leaders who dare to oppose America’s total control over global flows of money, goods and people. Wagenknecht addresses the question of Germany’s subservience to American Diktats and its de facto circumscribed sovereignty. The statements support Putin’s long-standing argument, reiterated in the film, that the Western European allies of the U.S. are nothing more than vassals.

Vladimir Putin’s closing remarks about the place of nuclear arms in Russia’s military doctrine must not be played down. Saying aloud that Russia has not and will not brandish its nuclear truncheon, is, in effect, doing just that. All of this is of one piece with the way Russia’s aerospace forces have conducted their attacks in Syria on the Islamic State and on the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad these past two months.

The use of heavy bombers flying 15,000 kilometers from the Kola Peninsula, in northwest Russia along the Arctic Circle, with the help of night-time in-flight refueling; the use of cruise missiles fired from frigates in the Caspian Sea at distances of 1,300 km to targets in Syria; and the use of cruise missiles launched from Russian submarines in the Mediterranean have all had a political dimension far exceeding military necessity in the Syrian theater: they demonstrate Russia’s capability of waging global war, including global nuclear war. These actions are also depicted in the film.

Is World Order propaganda? It most certainly is. Is it directed primarily at the Russian domestic audience, as the Telegraph newspaper insists? No. Like all of Putin’s foreign policy addresses, whether delivered abroad or at home, as in the Valdai Discussion Club, whether issued with subtitles in English or not, its primary audience is in Washington, D.C. with a secondary audience in Brussels.

One may suppose that the purpose is not to touch off or accelerate an arms race but, on the contrary, to bring the other side to its senses and persuade it of 1) Russia’s seriousness about defending militarily what it sees as vital national interests and 2) its ability to deliver massive destruction to an enemy even in the face of a possible first nuclear strike, and so to reinstate the Mutually Assured Destruction deterrence that America’s global missile defense was supposed to cancel out.

However, in World Order, Putin lists several areas of common concern over which Russia is prepared to cooperate with the West. Indeed these very same prospective areas of cooperation come up repeatedly in the public writings and speeches of the relatively few “fighters for peace” who are trying to draw the world community back from the brink into some kind of détente.

Dangerous Clash

Yet, pulling that raisin out of cake is to seriously misunderstand the very clear message coming out of Russia: that the destruction of world order by U.S.-led “democracy promotion” and its spread of “universal values” will not be tolerated and that Russia has set down certain red lines, such as against NATO expansion into Ukraine or Georgia over which it will fight to the death using all its resources. We ignore these messages at our peril.

As we enter the U.S. presidential electoral season and a vast number of foreign policy and military advisers are emerging to give counsel to the candidates on relations with Russia and other major powers in the hope of securing high posts in the next U.S. administration, it is worth looking again at the lessons of the summer and autumn of 2008, when what became the “reset” policy was formulated, through April 2009 when its implementation began.

That initiative took shape the last time that the United States and Russia were on a course of confrontation leading straight to armed conflict. The context was the Russian-Georgian war and the deployment of U.S. naval forces off the coast of Abkhazia, poised to attack the nearby Russian ground forces.

The imminent threat of war and the ongoing campaigning for presidential elections in November formed a nexus of circumstances not very dissimilar from where we are today when U.S. and allied air forces compete for space in the skies above Syria with a substantial Russian force that includes fighters, bombers and the most advanced air-defense system in the Russian arsenal.

I have set out the origins of the reset policy in the 15-page chapter entitled “Obama Changes US-Russian Relations” in my 2013 book Stepping Out of Line to which I refer the reader for full details. Here I will limit myself to several key facts and conclusions as they bear on our present situation.

First among these key facts was the mobilization of America’s political and scientific elites to bring about a change in U.S. foreign policy that would take us back from the brink of war. Many of the names which came into play then are once again being summoned by the fighters for peace to weigh in on the side of the angels.

The problem is that those who had created the conventional wisdom about the role of the U.S. in the world were ill-prepared to go beyond tinkering at the edges of that wisdom, resulting in the failure of reset to go to the heart of the dispute with Russia and ultimately this led to many tears of regret all around.

An Incomplete Reset

The starting point of what became the “reset” was the founding on Aug. 1, 2008, of the Commission on U.S. Policy Toward Russia under the aegis of former Senators Chuck Hagel (Republican) and Gary Hart (Democrat), setting the bipartisan course of the initiative. It had as its backers the Nixon Center in Washington, a think tank whose Honorary Chairman was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It was also supported by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research center within the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Members included former U.S. ambassadors to the USSR or Russia James Collins, Jack Matlock and Thomas Pickering as well as former National Security Council or Defense Department officials and top business leaders, such as the former chairman of the world’s largest insurance company, Maurice Greenberg. Among those who worked closely with the Commission either inside or outside were former Secretary of State George Schultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn.

Ultimately the Commission issued a 17-page report entitled “The Right Direction for U.S. Policy toward Russia” which contained many of the points taken up in the papers outlining reset which President Obama’s delegation signed off with the Russians when they met in London on April 1, 2009, on the sidelines of the first summit meeting between Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The centerpiece of “reset” as defined in the state papers signed in London was renewal of the 1994 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (START) that was scheduled to expire in December 2009. It also called for organizing “contacts between our two governments in a more structured and regular way.” And it went on to urge greater cooperation between societies: more cultural exchanges, student exchanges, scientific cooperation, and cooperation among NGOs.

START renewal was established as a priority of the Obama administration’s overall foreign policy, which called for stopping and reversing deployment of nuclear arms and enforcing non-proliferation. In the end, that objective was achieved. But in the end, that achievement did nothing to prevent the outbreak of a new arms race and ever greater risk of nuclear war among the great powers that we see today.

A major reason for this failure was the timidity of those calling for a new policy on Russia. The report from the Commission assumed continuing U.S. hegemony in world affairs. It stood by the policy of continuing expansion of NATO membership, including to Ukraine and Georgia, and the only concession was to slow down the timetable. It called for the continued roll-out of the global missile defense shield.

While the authors urged ending U.S. restrictions on trade with Russia and its admission to the World Trade Organization, they nonetheless espoused the conventional wisdom on the dangers of Russia’s dominant position as energy supplier to Europe and came out in favor of building gas pipelines to Europe skirting Russian territory and thereby diversifying Europe’s energy supplies at Russia’s expense.

A New Security Architecture

The overriding Russian concern for a new security architecture to be put in place in Europe that would bring them in from the cold received a sympathetic if noncommittal response from the Commission. The proposals in this regard put forward by President Medvedev in April 2008 should be formally reviewed, they said, but without any specific recommendations.

With respect to “democracy promotion” in Russia, the Commission members called for the volume of criticism of Russia to be turned down. They also called for a show of decency by Americans in their dealings with Russia.

Aside from the new strategic arms reduction treaty, Obama’s reset came to naught.

It bears stressing that today’s situation is more threatening than in 2008. Against a background of shrill Information Warfare between Russia and the West, the denigration of the Russian leadership and of the country in general by the occupant of the Oval Office and by leading members of Congress has advanced to levels unequaled in the worst days of the Cold War.

Meanwhile Russia’s strategic military capabilities in both nuclear and conventional warfare have advanced incredibly from the levels of 2008 when Western military observers expressed their satisfaction that the performance of the Russian military did not seem much improved over the days of the ill-fated Afghan war that brought down the Soviet Union. Today, if we are to escape from the cycle of “resets” from bitter disappointment over souring of relations after a few landmark fruits of cooperation and then the onset of new, heightened risks of nuclear war we must seize the nettle and resolve to address the underlying problems of international relations that the Russian leadership cite, most recently in the documentary film World Order.

Détente, i.e., relaxation of tensions and improved atmospherics, is only a good beginning, nothing more.

It’s worth noting that the film’s director and co-author is one of the most intelligent and fair-minded presenters on Russian television, Vladimir Soloviev, who is best known today for prime-time evening debates on hot domestic and international issues in which the “other side,” whether Ukrainian or American or the Russian opposition parties in the Duma, is always present in what amounts at times to astonishing openness of discussion on live television, when it does not descend into shouting matches.

Soloviev has a Ph.D. in economics from the Institute of World Economics and International Relations of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He was an active entrepreneur in the 1990s and spent some time back then in the U.S., where his activities included teaching economics at the University of Alabama. If he is the author of propaganda, one can be certain it is sophisticated and serves certain philosophical and ethical values, not individuals or power for power’s sake.

The documentary was released by the state broadcaster Pervy Kanal on Dec. 20.

Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator, American Committee for East West Accord, Ltd. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? (August 2015) is available in paperback and e-book from Amazon.com and affiliated websites. For donations to support the European activities of ACEWA, write to eastwestaccord@gmail.com. © Gilbert Doctorow, 2015




A Look-Back at 2015 Stories

At Consortiumnews, we mix today’s journalism with historical analyses on a wide range of topics, showing how current events fit into a larger context, an approach often lacking in the mainstream media. So a selection of our stories from 2015 is an intriguing way to look back and to understand the year just ended.

Rebuilding the Obama-Putin Trust” by Ray McGovern, Jan. 3, 2015

NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine” by Robert Parry, Jan. 6, 2015

CIA’s Hidden Hand in ‘Democracy’ Groups” by Robert Parry, Jan. 8, 2015

Behind the Saudi Oil-Price Gambit” by Andrés Cala, Jan. 13, 2015

Neocons: The ‘Anti-Realists’” by Robert Parry, Jan. 17, 2015

How Propaganda Conquers Democracy” by Nicolas J S Davies, Jan. 19, 2015

The Danger of an MH-17 ‘Cold Case’” by Robert Parry, Jan. 19, 2015

Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions” by Jonathan Marshall, Jan. 19, 2015

NYT Is Lost in It’s Ukraine Propaganda” by Robert Parry, Jan. 24, 2015

How Roy Cohn Helped Rupert Murdoch” by Robert Parry, Jan. 28, 2015

Why FDR Matters Now More Than Ever” by Beverly Bandler, Jan. 30, 2015

‘Group-Thinking’ the World into a New War” by Robert Parry, Jan. 30, 2015

What Syriza’s Victory Means for Europe” by Andrés Cala, Feb. 1, 2015

Examining the STASI, Seeing the NSA” by Elizabeth Murray, Feb. 3, 2015

A Pointed Letter to Gen. Petraeus” by Ray McGovern, Feb. 3, 2015

Al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and Israel” by Robert Parry, Feb. 4, 2015

From Tiger Cages to Soup Kitchens” by Ted Lieverman, Feb. 5, 2015

Nuclear War and Clashing Ukraine Narratives” by Robert Parry, Feb. 6, 2015

When Silencing Dissent Isn’t News” by Robert Parry, Feb. 7, 2015

Wretched US Journalism on Ukraine” by Robert Parry, Feb. 9, 2015

NYT Whites Out Ukraine’s Brown Shirts” by Robert Parry, Feb. 11, 2015

The Putin-Did-It Conspiracy Theory” by Robert Parry, Feb. 13, 2015

President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets” by Robert Parry, Feb. 16, 2015

The Endless Tragedy of Vietnam” by Myra MacPherson, Feb. 16, 2015

Ukraine Finance Minister’s American ‘Values’” by Robert Parry, Feb. 18, 2015

Ukraine War: A Reverse Cuban Missile Crisis” by William R. Polk, Feb. 24, 2015

The Mystery of the Civil War’s Camp Casey” by Chelsea Gilmour, Feb. 26, 2015

Needed: Leaders Like JFK and Khrushchev” by William R. Polk, Feb. 27, 2015

Playing Chicken with Nuclear War” by Robert Parry, Mar. 2, 2015

Gen. Petraeus: Too Big to Jail” by Ray McGovern, Mar. 5, 2015

Ben Bradlee’s Not Such ‘A Good Life’ Part 1” by James DiEugenio, Mar. 10, 2015

Ben Bradlee’s Not Such ‘A Good Life’ Part 2” by James DiEugenio, Mar. 10, 2015

The Secret Saudi Ties to Terrorism” by Daniel Lazare, Mar. 11, 2015

Guiding Obama into Global Make-Believe” by Ray McGovern, Mar. 14, 2015

US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down” by Robert Parry, Mar. 14, 2015

Netanyahu Unmasks Israel” by Robert Parry, Mar. 18, 2015

America’s Dead-End in the Middle East” by Daniel Lazare, Mar. 19, 2015

A Family Business of Perpetual War” by Robert Parry, Mar. 20, 2015

Ukraine’s Oligarchs Turn on Each Other” by Robert Parry, Mar. 24, 2015

Neocons: the Echo of German Fascism” by Todd E. Pierce, Mar. 27, 2015

Deciphering the Mideast Chaos” by Robert Parry, Mar. 30, 2015

Obama’s Secrecy Obsession” by Robert Parry, Mar. 31, 2015

Yemen as Vietnam or Afghanistan” by William R. Polk, Apr. 1, 2015

The US-Israel-Iran Triangle’s Tangled History” Robert Parry, Apr. 2, 2015

Obama’s Fateful Indecision” by Robert Parry, Apr. 6, 2015

Judith Miller’s Blame-Shifting Memoir” by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Apr. 7, 2015

Neocons, R2Pers and Hypocrisy” by Robert Parry, Apr. 10, 2015

Neocon ‘Chaos Promotion’ in the Mideast” by Ray McGovern, Apr. 13, 2015

Did Money Seal Israeli-Saudi Alliance?” by Robert Parry, Apr. 15, 2015

The West Snubs Russia over V-E Day” by Ray McGovern, Apr. 20, 2015

A Fact-Resistant ‘Group Think’ on Syria” by Robert Parry, Apr. 20, 2015

The US Hand in Libya’s Tragedy” by Robert Parry, Apr. 21, 2015

We Lucky Molecules” by Robert Parry, Apr. 22, 2015

The Day After Damascus Falls” by Robert Parry, Apr. 29, 2015

Climbing into Bed with Al-Qaeda” by Daniel Lazare, May 2, 2015

The War over the Vietnam War” by Don North, May 5, 2015

Failing to Hide Israel-Iran-Iraq Secrets” by Robert Parry, May 11, 2015

The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings” by Jonathan Marshall, May 14, 2015

Losing the American Republic” by William R. Polk, May 15, 2015

You Be the Judge” by Robert Parry, May 20, 2015

The MH-17 Propaganda War” by Greg Maybury, May 22, 2015

A Reckless ‘Stand-Upper’ on MH-17” by Robert Parry, May 28, 2015

Resurgence of the ‘Surge’ Myth” by Ray McGovern, May 28, 2015

Neocon Fugitive Given Ukraine Province” by Robert Parry, June 2, 2015

Obama’s Big Lie on Syria” by Daniel Lazare, June 5, 2015

Cold War II to McCarthyism II” by Robert Parry, June 8, 2015

Barack Obama: No Jack Kennedy” by Ray McGovern, June 10, 2015

U.S. House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine” by Robert Parry, June 12, 2015

Jeb Bush’s Tangled Past” by Chelsea Gilmour, June 12, 2015

Samantha Power: Liberal War Hawk” by Robert Parry, June 15, 2015

Obama’s Libya Fiasco” by Andres Cala, June 19, 2015

NYT’s Orwellian View of Ukraine” by Robert Parry, June 22, 2015

The Nitwits Are in Charge” by Robert Parry, June 24, 2015

Neocons Urge Embrace of Al Qaeda” by Daniel Lazare, June 26, 2015

Toward a Rational US Strategy (Part 1)” by William R. Polk, June 30, 2015

Toward a Rational US Strategy (Part 2)” by William R. Polk, July 1, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s Failed Libya ‘Doctrine’” by Robert Parry, July 1, 2015

Behind the Greek Crisis” by William R. Polk, July 2, 2015

How Zionism Corrupts Judaism” by Daniel C. Maguire, July 2, 2015

Jeb Bush’s ‘Transparency’ Ploy” by Chelsea Gilmour, July 3, 2015

Not Learning from Mideast Mistakes” by William R. Polk, July 3, 2015

Greek ‘No’ Vote Spurs Wider Resistance” by Andrés Cala, July 6, 2015

Ukraine Merges Nazis and Islamists” by Robert Parry, July 7, 2015

MH-17 Case Slips into Propaganda Fog” by Robert Parry, July 9, 2015

Obama’s Deadly Cold War Legacy” by Robert Parry, July 10, 2015

Struggling for Women’s Sports Equality” by Chelsea Gilmour, July 12, 2015

‘Secret’ History of the Greek Crisis” by William R. Polk, July 12, 2015

The Mess that Nuland Made” by Robert Parry, July 13, 2015

The World Rebukes Netanyahu” by Robert Parry, July 14, 2015

MH-17 Mystery: A New Tonkin Gulf Case?” by Robert Parry, July 17, 2015

Making Excuses for Saudi Misbehavior” by Daniel Lazare, July 18, 2015

Seeking War to the End of the World” by Robert Parry, July 19, 2015

Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War” by Jonathan Marshall, July 20, 2015

The US Hand in the Syrian Mess” by Jonathan Marshall, July 20, 2015

Obama Should Release MH-17 Intel” by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, July 22, 2015

The Dangers of European Dis-Union” by Nat Parry, July 23, 2015

Why Russia Shut Down NED Fronts” by Robert Parry, July 30, 2015

The Soft Power Hoax” by Mike Lofgren, Aug. 2, 2015

How US Allies Aid Al Qaeda in Syria” by Daniel Lazare, Aug. 4, 2015

Why Many Muslims Hate the US” by William R. Polk, Aug. 5, 2015

The Saudi Royals, Unchained” by Joe Lauria, Aug. 14, 2015

Neocons to Americans: Trust Us Again” by Robert Parry, Aug. 16, 2015

Propaganda, Intelligence, and MH-17” by Ray McGovern, Aug. 17, 2015

Pentagon Manual Calls Some Reporters Spies” by Don North, Aug. 19, 2015

The Honduran Coup’s Ugly Aftermath” by Jonathan Marshall, Aug. 19, 2015

Why US Police Are Out of Control” by Daniel Lazare, Aug. 20, 2015

The Riddle of Obama’s Foreign Policy” by Robert Parry, Aug. 21, 2015

The Case for Pragmatism” by Robert Parry, Aug. 24, 2015

Sanders’s Screwy Mideast Strategy” by Sam Husseini, Aug. 27, 2015

Will Peace Find a 2016 Advocate?” by Robert Parry, Aug. 27, 2015

Pushing the Edge on Nuclear War” by William R. Polk, Aug. 28, 2015

US/NATO Embrace Psy-ops and Info-War” by Don North, Sep. 2, 2015

A Deflategate Slapdown of NFL and MSM” by Robert Parry, Sep. 3, 2015

Muslim Memories of West’s Imperialism” by William R. Polk, Sep. 4, 2015

How Neocons Destabilized Europe” by Robert Parry, Sep. 7, 2015

On Syria, Incoherence Squared” by Daniel Lazare, Sep. 11, 2015

Neocons Blame Obama for Syria” by Jonathan Marshall, Sep. 11, 2015

US War Theories Target Dissenters” by Todd E. Pierce, Sep. 12, 2015

Are Neocons an Existential Threat?” by Robert Parry, Sep. 15, 2015

Neocons Babble Over Syria Crisis” by Daniel Lazare, Sep. 16, 2015

Obama’s Fateful Syrian Choice” by Robert Parry, Sep. 18, 2015

A Moral Challenge for Pope Francis” by Ray McGovern, Sep. 21, 2015

Will US Grasp Putin’s Syria Lifeline?” by Robert Parry, Sep. 22, 2015

The Power of False Narrative” by Robert Parry, Sep. 28, 2015

Value in Reading Others’ Propaganda” by Graham E. Fuller, Sep. 29, 2015

Putin’s Judo Move in Syria” by Daniel Lazare, Sep. 29, 2015

Obama’s Self-Deceit” by Joe Lauria, Sep. 29, 2015

Obama’s Ludicrous ‘Barrel Bomb’ Theme” by Robert Parry, Sep. 30, 2015

Should US Ally with Al Qaeda in Syria” by Robert Parry, Oct. 1, 2015

Obama Tolerates the Warmongers” by Daniel Lazare, Oct. 2, 2015

US Tax Dollars and Ukraine’s Finance Minister” by Robert Parry, Oct. 3, 2015

The Hope Behind Putin’s Syria Help” by Ray McGovern, Oct. 4, 2015

Rupert Murdoch: Propaganda Recruit” by Robert Parry, Oct. 5, 2015

Obama Boots Syrian Peace Chance” by Robert Parry, Oct. 6, 2015

Collateral Damage/Stuff Happens” by David Marks, Oct. 9, 2015

How Do-Gooders Can Do Bad” by Coleen Rowley and Diana Johnstone

Obama’s Two-Faced Foreign Policy” by Robert Parry, Oct. 10, 2015

MH-17: The Dog Still Not Barking” by Robert Parry, Oct. 13, 2015

NYT Plays Games with MH-17 Tragedy” by Robert Parry, Oct. 15, 2015

Kicking War Cans Down the Road” by Jonathan Marshall, Oct. 16, 2015

The Reckless Guns of October” by Daniel Lazare, Oct. 16, 2015

Jeffrey Sterling’s Selective Prosecution” by Chelsea Gilmour, Oct. 17, 2015

Colombia’s Bittersweet Peace Deal” by Andrés Cala, Oct. 19, 2015

MH-17 Case: ‘Old’ Journalism vs. ‘New’” by Robert Parry, Oct. 20, 2015

Checkmate on ‘The Devil’s Chessboard’” by Lisa Pease, Oct. 27, 2015

Seeing Syrian Crisis Through Russian Eyes” by Ray McGovern, Oct. 28, 2015

GOP and the Rise of Anti-Knowledge” by Mike Lofgren, Oct. 29, 2015

The ‘Anti-Knowledge’ of the Elites” by Mike Lofgren, Oct. 31, 2015

Rubio Follows the Big Money” by Jonathan Marshall, Nov. 1, 2015

Reviving the ‘Liberal Media’ Myth” by Robert Parry, Nov. 2, 2015

The Dark Truth in the Movie ‘Truth’” by James DiEugenio, Nov. 3, 2015

America’s Chalabi Legacy of Lies” by Robert Parry, Nov. 4, 2015

The Death of a Charming Charlatan” by Karen Kwiatkowski, Nov. 4, 2015

Obama’s Risky ‘Mission Creep’ in Syria” by Daniel Lazare, Nov. 6, 2015

How Ukraine’s Finance Chief Got Rich” by Robert Parry, Nov. 10, 2015

Rubio’s Big-time Military Build-up” by Chuck Spinney, Nov. 11, 2015

Netanyahu Ups the US Ante” by Ann Wright, Nov. 12, 2015

Fresh Twists in the Lockerbie Case” by John Ashton, Nov. 12, 2015

Carpetbagging ‘Crony Capitalism’ in Ukraine” by Robert Parry, Nov. 13, 2015

How Saudi/Gulf Money Fuels Terror” by Daniel Lazare, Nov. 14, 2015

Can Obama Level with the People?” by Robert Parry, Nov. 14, 2015

Falling into the ISIS Trap” by William R. Polk, Nov. 17, 2015

Neocons Make Rubio Their Favorite” by JP Sottile, Nov. 18, 2015

Tangled Threads of US False Narrative” by Robert Parry, Nov. 19, 2015

How Russians See the West and Russia” by Natylie Baldwin, Nov. 19, 2015

Turkey Provokes Russia with Shoot-down” by Robert Parry, Nov. 24, 2015

In the Dark on the ‘Dark Side’” by Nicolas J S Davies, Nov. 27, 2015

The Collision Course in Syria” by Daniel Lazare, Nov. 28, 2015

How Gaddafi’s Ouster Unleashed Terror” by Jonathan Marshall, Nov. 30, 2015

The US-Russia Proxy War in Syria” by Ray McGovern, Dec. 1, 2015

Near Boiling Point on Global Warming” by Nat Parry, Dec. 1, 2015

Obama Ignores Russian Terror Victims” by Robert Parry, Dec. 2, 2015

Obama’s Credibility Crisis” by Robert Parry, Dec. 6, 2015

The Incredible Shrinking President” by Daniel Lazare, Dec. 7, 2015

Why Syria’s Options Are So Bad” by Ted Snider, Dec. 8, 2015

A Day When Journalism Died” by Robert Parry, Dec. 9, 2015

Chicago Police Adopt Israeli Tactics” by Todd E. Pierce, Dec. 11, 2015

Cornering Russia, Risking World War III” by Alastair Crooke, Dec. 11, 2015

Blocking Democracy as Syria’s Solution” by Robert Parry, Dec. 12, 2015

How Obscure Bureaucrats Cause Wars” by Jonathan Marshall, Dec. 15, 2015

A Blind Eye Toward Turkey’s Crimes” by Robert Parry, Dec. 16, 2015

Rethinking Donald Trump” by Sam Husseini, Dec. 18, 2015

A GOP Split on Neocon Orthodoxy” by James W Carden, Dec. 19, 2015

Neocons Object to Syrian Democracy” by Robert Parry, Dec. 19, 2015

A Call for Proof on Syria-Sarin Attack” by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Dec. 22, 2015

The Grimmer Story Behind ‘Trumbo’” by James DiEugenio, Dec. 24, 2015

The Misinformation Mess” by Robert Parry, Dec. 28, 2015

One County’s Global Warming Failure” by Robert Parry, Dec. 29, 2015

To produce and publish these stories and many more costs money. And except for some book sales, we depend on the generous support of our readers.

So, please consider a tax-deductible donation either by credit card online or by mailing a check. (For readers wanting to use PayPal, you can address contributions to our PayPal Giving Fund account, which is named “The Consortium for Independent Journalism”).




Probing Bernie Sanders’s Identity

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be a strong voice on income inequality but his positions on military spending and foreign policy are muddled and his criticism of ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s neocon-oriented world view is muted, as anti-war activist David Swanson notes in this book review.

By David Swanson

Every time I write about a book about Bernie Sanders, somebody sends me a better one. If this keeps up, by the time his campaign is over I should be reading the best book ever written and be completely out of touch with reality. The latest is The Bern Identity by Will Bunch.

These books don’t make me like Bernie Sanders any more or less, or for that matter take seriously any more or less the idea that a likable personality is particularly relevant. But they do inform me about Sanders and about his supporters. Bunch’s is the most substantive, best researched, and most coherent book of the bunch so far.

Bunch admires Bernie for learning the lessons of the 1960s and, for the most part, never selling out. Bunch finds this remarkable, almost unique. And, of course, it is that among U.S. Senators, and among the gang of misfits occupying the two stages at the freak shows we call presidential primary debates.

But there are many thousands of people who woke up during the 1960s and never went to sleep. Many of them have worked for peace and justice ever since with hardly a burnout. One could pick any number of them and stack their accomplishments up quite impressively against those of Bernie Sanders.

Yes, I agree that Bernie’s injecting of a little bit of sense into corporate television is important and very hard to measure. Yes, I have no doubt that there’s a bit more integrity and relevance in Bernie’s background than there was in the legend of the African-American community-organizing author come to save us while shrewdly pretending not to. But Bernie holding the biggest political rallies in some big cities since Eugene McCarthy may not be an unmixed blessing.

I’ve written before about Bernie volunteers professing to be motivated by policies that their candidate explicitly opposes. Yet I cannot stay untouched by the excitement Bunch depicts at massive Bernie rallies he’s attended. It’s wonderful for people to suddenly discover that something might be possible, to suddenly give a damn, to suddenly do a tiny something about it. But it’s also miserable to consider that they have been so well trained to do this only as cheerleaders for a candidate.

Surely that’s not the lesson of the 1960s in which the civil rights and antiwar and other movements organized around issues and imposed change on the entire bipartisan political structure — just as major change has usually been brought about. Yes, elections were hugely important in the Sixties, but they were secondary. Now they are Everything.

The peace movement shut down in 2007 because there was to be an election in 2008, and it won’t start up again until a Republican moves into the White House. Elections are terrific — I’d love to see a fair and open one in the United States some day — but there is a danger in the new myth that they are all that there is.

Bunch’s book celebrates Bernie Sanders as having stayed true to his Sixties politics all these years, while the public moved away and has finally returned to him. I think there’s something to that, but would offer a few caveats.

First, there have always been millions of people wanting progressive policies, and they have been effectively shut out by the media, by the Democratic Party, and by an increasingly corrupted political system. Second, the other candidates have moved so far right that Bernie is closer to where a middle of the roader sits. Third, Bernie is fundamentally rightwing on militarism, and nobody wants to analyze that problem in any depth.

On the first point, I recommend Ted Rall’s book on Bernie, the first half of which is a history of the Democratic Party’s flight to the right.

On the second point, let’s be honest, there are many people who could be doing more or less what Bernie is doing right now in the Democratic Primary. Most potential candidates sat this one out, either because Hillary Clinton claimed such a lock on the nomination or because committing to support her should she win was too revolting a decision to make in order to run as a Democrat.

The media completely whites out third-party candidates like Jill Stein, and the public has been convinced they’re useless. And yet, even as the Republicans ape Hitler and Mussolini, Hillary Clinton tries to position herself to their right. Bernie is a brilliant, dedicated, relatively honest candidate who has been given an opening by a combination of circumstances, not least of them perhaps the media’s notion that an undecided primary is better for ratings as long as there’s no risk of someone like Sanders actually winning.

On the third point, Bunch’s history of Sanders’ life suggests that it’s not entirely new for him to give far less interest to peace than to domestic matters. There’s no account of Sanders growing outraged over the war on Vietnam, rather over President John Kennedy’s opposition to the Cuban revolution. Sanders registered as a conscientious objector, but he organized against racial discrimination and against restrictions on having sex on campus.

Bunch seems not to notice the elephant that’s not in the room. He says a Sanders speech is a laundry list of liberal issues in which everyone will hear whatever they’re waiting for. Not if you’re waiting to hear about peace.

Bunch doesn’t hide the shortcomings. He notes that the Sanders campaign staff forced the removal of a banner advocating rights for Palestinians, that in 1983 peace activists protested a GE weapons plant in Burlington demanding conversion to peaceful manufacturing and Mayor Sanders had them arrested in the name of preserving 3,000 weapons-making jobs, and that in recent years Sanders has supported the production of the F-35 also in the name of jobs for Vermonters.

In 1972 Sanders wrote, as Bunch quotes him, that the daily U.S. military budget was greater than the annual state budget of Vermont. At $4 billion today, the state of Vermont is slightly over one day’s military spending (taking annual military spending to be $1.2 trillion) but it has been a long time since Sanders has demanded conversion to peaceful spending.

Instead, he has accepted the truly sociopathic notion that jobs (and jobs of a particular sort, as if a good socialist doesn’t know that the same dollars could produce more jobs if spent on peace) justify militarism. Imagine how that sounds to the 96% of humanity never mentioned by Sanders, except when citing the successes of European nations whose radically lower military spending he seems not to have noticed.

Dear parent of dead children in Yemen just blown up by U.S. weapons, let me assure you that the money Saudi Arabia paid for those weapons — if not the “contributions” to the Clinton family — produced a lot of jobs. And while we could have had even more jobs by investing in something useful like green energy that would keep you from baking to death in the years to come, the fact is that I don’t really give a damn.

Militarism is at least half of what Congress spends money on each year. It’s not my personal quirky interest. Is it OK that Bernie excuses Israel’s crimes because he’s Jewish? Should we overlook his support for guns because he’s from Vermont?

These are debatable because he’s so wonderful on so many other things. But continuing down the path of sociopathic militarism is not an option if we are to maintain a livable planet. Bernie voted against the 2003 attack on Iraq, but then worked against those in Congress trying to block funding for it. Was that the right compromise? Was that authenticity?

Of course, the military spending debate is usually about the wars that add 10% or so to the standard military spending. When it comes to those, Sanders wants Saudi Arabia to start paying for them. But there are problems with that scheme.

First, Saudi Arabia gets its money by selling the world the poisonous fossil fuels that will destroy it. Second, Saudi Arabia buys the biggest pile of its weapons from the United States, which thereby contributes to the mass slaughter — and everyone knows it.

Third, Saudi Arabia is one of the largest sources of funding and support for the people that Bernie imagines it funding a war against. Fourth, continuing these insane wars in the Middle East will continue to spread violence around and outside of that region, including to the United States, regardless of what share of the bill the United States is asking Saudi Arabia to pick up.

That cycle of violence will only end by taking a different approach, not by continuing down the same road with a different billing scheme.

The great hope that comes to the smarter people at rallies for good candidates under corrupt electoral systems is that they are building a movement that will outlast the campaign. But when has that actually happened? And how can such a candidate-focused movement not bow before the candidate’s own compromises?

The election book we really need is the one that explains the minor role elections play in social change. The next-best election book that we need, the one I keep looking for, is the one that outlines what each candidate proposes to do if elected. What would their proposed budgets look like? Which nations would they bomb first? Does Bernie think military spending is too high or too low? Who knows! I expect the question not to come up in the next dozen Bernie books, but I’ll keep looking.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook. http://davidswanson.org/node/5012