Why Gen. Mattis Is No Gen. Marshall

President-elect Trump’s pick of retired Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis to run the Pentagon raises questions about civilian control of the military, especially compared to the precedent of Gen. George Marshall, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Useful perspective on issues surrounding the nomination of the retired Marine Corps general James Mattis to be Secretary of Defense, including the issue of civilian control of the military, can come from reflecting on the career of the one other general ever to be U.S. Defense Secretary.

Whether the appointment of Mattis turns out to be good or bad will depend as well on other things, but for comparison and context, consider the role and talents of the third Secretary of Defense, George C. Marshall. (After World War II, a reorganization transformed the Department of War, which had existed since 1789, into the Department of Defense.)

Marshall had a career as an Army officer but, apart from 18 months as a second lieutenant of infantry during the insurgency in the Philippines that followed the Spanish-American War, he rose to five-star general without ever commanding troops in combat. He instead was a brilliant planner and organizer.

During World War I, he was a staff officer who was heavily involved in the planning of operations for the American Expeditionary Force. As Army chief of staff throughout World War II, Marshall could be said to have managed the enormous allied war effort as much as any one person did. This was one of two roles that earned him a distinguished place in history.

His other big role was as a post-war diplomat, beginning when President Harry Truman dispatched him to China to try to arrange a political settlement between the Chinese Nationalists and Communists. He served as Truman’s Secretary of State during the critical years of the beginning of the Cold War, from 1947 to 1949. It was during his tenure in that office that he led implementation of the economic recovery program that bears his name — work for which he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

A World-Class Diplomat

Marshall’s service as Defense Secretary (following a stint as president of the American National Red Cross) thus came after he had already been one of the most prominent members of the Truman administration and a diplomat of world-class stature and accomplishment.

Truman’s calling of Marshall back to his administration to be Secretary of Defense was a short-term (Marshall served in the position for only a year) fix to a problem of bad morale and organization in the U.S. military establishment. The job of Secretary of Defense, which had been established in 1947, had not yet enjoyed a leader who would set a strong and positive model for future occupants of the office.

Truman removed each of his first two secretaries of defense (James Forrestal and Louis Johnson) after just a year and a half in the job. Marshall took the position at the low point of September 1950, after three months of the United States reeling from the North Korean invasion that began the Korean War.

As secretary, Marshall was involved in one of the best-known assertions of civilian control of the military: Truman’s firing of an insubordinate Douglas MacArthur, an action in which Marshall concurred. With that personnel problem resolved and the tide turned in Korea, Marshall retired to private life in September 1951.

In short, Marshall is not a precedent for the Mattis appointment except in the technical sense of having once worn stars on his shoulders. Putting Mattis in the job really would be a departure, in that he is at short remove from being a warrior and has had nothing like the career that Marshall had when he took over leadership of the Pentagon.

It is with good reason that the high school in Fairfax County, Virginia that is named after Marshall calls its athletic teams the Statesmen.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.) 




Extracting Castro from the Demonization

The mainstream U.S. news media often lacks historical perspective, a problem most acute when the subject, like Fidel Castro, has faced Official Washington’s geopolitical demonization, as Lawrence Davidson explains.

By Lawrence Davidson

There was something both sad and disturbing about popular American reactions to the death of Fidel Castro on Nov. 25. According to The New York Times, news of his death caused much of the Cuban American population of south Florida to “fill Miami’s streets with song.” Those were songs of “rejoicing” rather than dirges. We will examine why these celebrations occurred later in this analysis. However, first we want to give Señor Castro his due.

Fidel Castro was the man who led the successful effort to overthrow the brutal and reactionary dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista – a dictatorship that had the backing of the U.S. government. The Castro-led victory of 1959 began a long period of transformation for Cuba, raising the country from a starkly poor Third World condition to a modernizing socialist state. Here are some of that country’s achievements under Castro’s leadership:

— The expansion of nationwide public education, which uplifted the Cuban population from being largely illiterate to being mostly literate.

— The introduction and development of a modern and accessible public health care system, which all but eliminated death from curable diseases and greatly reduced the infant mortality rate.

— The expansion of services, such as the electric grid, sewage systems, and a reliable water supply, into the countryside.

— The establishment of programs of sustainable development as the nation’s economy diversified according to environmentally safe guidelines. This did involve redistribution of large landed estates to over a quarter million peasants.

— A significant reduction of both racism and sexism through education and new laws.

— A considerable reduction of economic disparities.

There was, of course, a price to be paid for these advances. All of this and more was made possible by instituting a socialist economy and a one-party government. This alienated much of the country’s upper and middle classes. Resistance brought varying degrees of repression. Over time many of those whose economic lifestyles were compromised learned to resent and indeed hate Castro. Tens of thousands of them fled to the United States.

If the socialist road was, predictably, going to divide Cuba in such a drastic way, why did Castro decide to go this route? It was not, as popularly believed, because he came to power a convinced communist. His move to the left was in direct reaction to the policies adopted by the U.S. government.

A Fateful Visit

In April 1959, at the invitation of the American Association of Newspaper Editors, Castro paid a visit to the United States. The trip provided an opportunity for consultations with the U.S. government, although U.S. officials only begrudgingly met with Castro. There was a lot of annoyance at his early, if short-lived, declaration of neutrality when it came to the Cold War. President Dwight Eisenhower showed his displeasure with Castro by opting for a game of golf. But Castro did manage to get a three-hour audience with Vice President Richard Nixon.

It seems that the meeting did not go very well. Castro refused to promise swift new elections in Cuba. He was convinced that the nation’s priorities were economic and not political. And although Castro protested that he was not a communist, Nixon was suspicious. After the meeting he concluded that Castro was “either incredibly naive about communism or under communist discipline – my guess is the former.”

Subsequently, the U.S. government refused any economic assistance to the new Cuban regime. Worse yet, a decision was made to institute “punishment politics.” In March 1960, President Eisenhower set up funding for the overthrow of Castro. A year later the Kennedy administration carried out the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. It was against this background that Castro and his advisers quickly turned to the Soviet Union for the economic and military assistance necessary for their survival.

Rejecting Sacrifice

Do those who jumped for joy in Little Havana on Nov. 25 understand this history? Most of them are the descendants of individuals who rejected Castro’s socialist ideals. Their own loyalties were not to Cuban society as a whole, but rather to family and/or a restricted economic community that was being forced to sacrifice for the greater good. Yet, for many Cubans of means, the notion of the greater good proved too threatening to be identified with their local interests.

Thus, the rejoicers’ immediate ancestors fled to the U.S. with their portable wealth and formed the political lobby (based, by the way, on the strategy and tactics of the Zionist lobby) that kept the U.S. government scheming against Cuba for over 50 years. Is it any wonder that their children should have a biased view of history?

The Cuban Americans are not the only ones to express a one-sided view of things. Members of the American conservative elite also rejoiced at Castro’s death. Here a representative voice is that of George Will, a political commentator whose columns appear in The Washington Post and other newspapers.

Will’s column on Castro’s death appeared on Nov. 28 under the title “Cuba a Tomb of Utopianism.” It is a historically incorrect judgment by virtue of the fact that Cuba’s achievements under Castro’s leadership, some of which are listed above, are not utopian at all, but rather quite real. But Will cannot see this any more than the celebrants of Little Havana. For him Castro is nothing more than a “charismatic totalitarian” whose life was “nasty” and whose “regime was saturated with sadism.” He goes on to compare Castro to Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini.

What is his evidence for these morbid exaggerations? Well, the Cuban government imprisoned some of its opponents, though they allowed many more of them to emigrate out of the country. Between 500 and 700 of Batista’s henchmen were tried and executed. Over time the regime manifested increasing authoritarian tendencies largely due to relentless U.S. efforts to destroy the country’s economy and overthrow its government.

In other words, the United States created an ongoing wartime situation for Havana. Under such circumstances the historically usual reaction is for a government – any government – to become more controlling. George Will takes no notice of this.

The Cuban American rejoicing at Castro’s death, and George Will’s misreading it as the a sign of a “dead utopianism,” are both disturbing manifestations of historical narrow-mindedness.

In the case of the celebrants, this attitude is no doubt connected to pent-up anger over the fact that something had been taken from them, or from their relatives, as part of an effort to remake a society that, prior to 1959, had only enriched the wealthy and impoverished the poor.

George Will’s attitude is a function of his conservative worldview. He gives no credit at all to the economic and social achievements of Fidel Castro because he can’t get past his ideologically driven interpretation of the political steps taken to realize them.

And neither of the above will admit to the truth that the Cuba policy of the United States over more than 50 years contributed strongly to the road Castro took.

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




Italy’s Voters Slap Down the Elites

Exlusive: In another populist blow to the elites, Italian voters rejected a constitutional reform plan that prompted Prime Minister Renzi’s resignation and raised new doubts about the E.U.’s stability, explains Andrew Spannaus.

By Andrew Spannaus

Italian voters sent a strong message to their own government and to all of Europe, declaring through their rejection of a constitutional reform referendum that democracy is more important than efficiency and that the population won’t be bullied by threats from the political and financial elite.

This is the upshot of Sunday’s resounding defeat of the constitutional changes proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has now announced his resignation, opening the country up to a period of political uncertainty.

The higher-than-expected margin for the No side, which prevailed 59 percent to 41 percent and the high turnout for a stand-alone referendum (68.5 percent), makes it clear that the sentiment expressed by Italians went far beyond the merits of the reform. Indeed the proposal itself, which aimed to streamline the political process and thus give more power to the government to avoid gridlock, was too complicated to submit to a popular vote. Even its supporters weren’t sure it would actually work, while most citizens were bewildered by the fact that they were asked to judge something so complicated.

The result was that the vote took on a political significance apart from the reform itself. And thus the Italians added their voice to the popular revolt expressed through the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the success of anti-establishment candidates in the U.S. elections. People went to vote en masse against the reform to show that they won’t be manipulated by a political elite that has not solved the basic problems afflicting most of the Western world, starting with the difficulties of the middle class due to the failed economic policies of financial globalization.

Italy’s political system and bureaucacy is indeed complex, and could benefit from increased efficiency; but reform is difficult without addressing broader political and economic problems. Renzi himself, who rose to prominence as the “demolition man” taking aim at what he defined as entrenched power structures, wasn’t even elected to his post as Prime Minister. He got the job due to a shift in power in the Democratic Party (Pd) in 2014, after years of technocratic governments had already begun to provoke widespread discontent in the population.

His rise was billed as a move back towards the primacy of political power, as opposed to the harsh austerity imposed by national and international financial authorities starting from 2011 on, measures which caused an over 20 percent drop in the country’s industrial production.

Once the austerity was tempered the economy starting doing better, but it never made it past sub-one-percent growth, and the widespread impression was that Renzi’s words were much louder than his actions. The policy that continues to dominate is that of the European Union’s budget rules, which restrict government spending and largely prohibit public intervention to stimulate the economy.

Role of J.P. Morgan

Renzi’s reform, despite having some positive aspects to it, ultimately fell victim to the population’s rejection of the overall political and economic conditions. An example is the impression that international financial interests were keen on obtaining the constitutional changes in order to pursue their own interests.

In May 2013, J.P. Morgan published a report entitled “The Euro area adjustment: about halfway there.” The bank lamented the weakness of the constitutions of countries of the “periphery” (usually referring to Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece). Astoundingly, among the complaints listed in the report were items such as “constitutional protection of labor rights” and “the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the status quo.”

J.P. Morgan’s conclusion was that these shortcomings have led to the failure of “fiscal and economic reform agendas,” although it held out hope for Italy, where the Renzi government was aiming “to engage in meaningful political reform.”

The political class scoffed at the “conspiracy theory” of how international banks were pushing the reform, but not surprisingly it made quite an impression on regular people. In the final months of the campaign the opposition grew based on the notion that the reform was anti-democratic, as it aimed to streamline decision-making power by limiting popular input.

Whether J.P. Morgan and other financial interests had a direct role in encouraging the reform or not is open to debate (and investigation), but at this point what matters is that the population has the impression that policy in Europe is made by the banks and multinational corporations, for the banks and multinational corporations, and that governments generally respond to those interests.

Indeed the international reaction to the anti-reform vote in Italy will predictably focus on financial stability and the potential for a banking crisis. Italy’s banks are laden with non-performing loans, with one in particular, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, needing over $5 billion in new capital to avoid collapse. It’s not the largest bank in the country, but the problem of distressed assets is widespread due in particular to the collapse of the internal market during the austerity period of 2011-2014, something that most economic commentators conveniently forget to mention.

The incessant threats of financial calamity due to a No vote that were waved around by supporters of the reform and the international press, likely had the opposite effect: the population refuses to be manipulated, because it doesn’t trust the motives of the press and the politicians.

Democracy’s Outburst

Lastly, there is the question of democracy, as expressed through elections. Renzi’s resignation will lead to a caretaker government charged with completing the budget law and then making adjustments to the country’s election law, another issue of reform that has been used as a political football between Italian political parties.

The scenario that the institutions wish to avoid at all costs, is elections. The fear across Europe is that the outsider parties, considered as extremist due principally to their criticism of the European Union, will make strong gains if the population is called on to vote.

Indeed the Five Star Movement (M5S), founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, is already close to having a plurality of support in Italy. On the right is the Northern League, closer to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Marine Le Pen in France, that could also stand to benefit.

Renzi himself remains popular, in particular with the professional class and in the business community. Given the personalization of the referendum, Renzi announced from the start that it was all about him – the 41 percent vote for the Yes side could even be seen as a reflection of his personal popularity, a very high number in Europe where there are generally at least three large parties in each country. Yet the worry is that the political situation could spiral out of control, with a victory by groups with anti-establishment positions.

Faced with this scenario, European elites seem to be falling into the usual trap. For fear of losing power they aim to buy time by stifling the voice of the protest, ultimately making it worse. It’s the same model used for economic policy: the E.U. institutions are so strongly wedded to their free market and austerity ideology that they try to further centralize decision-making power at the supranational level, refusing to make fundamental changes even if it means aggravating the problem.

In Europe, few seem to have learned the lesson from Brexit and the U.S. elections. The people are restless and fed up with the elites.

Andrew Spannaus is a freelance journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He is the founder of Transatlantico.info, that provides news, analysis and consulting to Italian institutions and businesses. His book on the U.S. elections Perchè vince Trump (Why Trump is Winning) was published in June 2016.

 




WPost Won’t Retract McCarthyistic Smear

After publishing a McCarthyistic “black list” that smears some 200 Web sites as “Russian propagandists,” The Washington Post refuses to apologize — and other mainstream media outlets pile on, writes Norman Solomon.

By Norman Solomon

We still don’t have any sort of apology or retraction from the Washington Post for promoting “The List” — the highly dangerous blacklist that got a huge boost from the newspaper’s fawning coverage on Nov. 24. The project of smearing 200 websites with one broad brush wouldn’t have gotten far without the avid complicity of high-profile media outlets, starting with the Post.

On Thursday — a week after the Post published its front-page news article hyping the blacklist that was put out by a group of unidentified people called PropOrNot — I sent a petition statement to the newspaper’s executive editor Martin Baron.

“Smearing is not reporting,” the RootsAction petition says. “The Washington Post’s recent descent into McCarthyism — promoting anonymous and shoddy claims that a vast range of some 200 websites are all accomplices or tools of the Russian government — violates basic journalistic standards and does real harm to democratic discourse in our country. We urge the Washington Post to prominently retract the article and apologize for publishing it.”

After mentioning that 6,000 people had signed the petition (the number has doubled since then), my email to Baron added: “If you skim through the comments that many of the signers added to the petition online, I think you might find them to be of interest. I wonder if you see a basis for dialogue on the issues raised by critics of the Post piece in question.”

The reply came from the newspaper’s vice president for public relations, Kristine Coratti Kelly, who thanked me “for reaching out to us” before presenting the Post’s response, quoted here in full:

“The Post reported on the work of four separate sets of researchers, as well as independent experts, who have examined Russian attempts to influence American democracy. PropOrNot was one. The Post did not name any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list of organizations that it said had — wittingly or unwittingly — published or echoed Russian propaganda. The Post reviewed PropOrNot’s findings and our questions about them were answered satisfactorily during the course of multiple interviews.”

Full of Holes

But that damage-control response was as full of holes as the news story it tried to defend.

For one thing, PropOrNot wasn’t just another source for the Post’s story. As The New Yorker noted in a devastating article on Dec. 1, the story “prominently cited the PropOrNot research.” The Post’s account “had the force of revelation, thanks in large part to the apparent scientific authority of PropOrNot’s work: the group released a 32-page report detailing its methodology, and named names with its list of 200 suspect news outlets…. But a close look at the report showed that it was a mess.”

Contrary to the PR message from the Post vice president, PropOrNot did not merely say that the sites on its list had “published or echoed Russian propaganda.” Without a word of the slightest doubt or skepticism in the entire story, the Post summarized PropOrNot’s characterization of all the websites on its list as falling into two categories: “Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were ‘useful idiots’ — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.”

As The New Yorker pointed out, PropOrNot’s criteria for incriminating content were broad enough to include “nearly every news outlet in the world, including the Post itself.” Yet “The List” is not a random list by any means — it’s a targeted mish-mash, naming websites that are not within shouting distance of the U.S. corporate and foreign policy establishment.

And so the list includes a few overtly Russian-funded outlets; some other sites generally aligned with Kremlin outlooks; many pro-Trump sites, often unacquainted with what it means to be factual and sometimes overtly racist; and other websites that are quite different — solid, factual, reasonable — but too progressive or too anti-capitalist or too libertarian or too right-wing or just plain too independent-minded for the evident tastes of whoever is behind PropOrNot.

As The New Yorker’s writer Adrian Chen put it: “To PropOrNot, simply exhibiting a pattern of beliefs outside the political mainstream is enough to risk being labeled a Russian propagandist.” And he concluded: “Despite the impressive-looking diagrams and figures in its report, PropOrNot’s findings rest largely on innuendo and conspiracy thinking.”

As for the Post vice president’s defensive phrasing that “the Post did not name any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list,” the fact is that the Post unequivocally promoted PropOrNot, driving web traffic to its site and adding a hotlink to the anonymous group’s 32-page report soon after the newspaper’s story first appeared. As I mentioned in my reply to her: “Unfortunately, it’s kind of like a newspaper saying that it didn’t name any of the people on the Red Channels blacklist in 1950 while promoting it in news coverage, so no problem.”

Pushing McCarthyism

As much as the Post news management might want to weasel out of the comparison, the parallels to the advent of the McCarthy Era are chilling. For instance, the Red Channels list, with 151 names on it, was successful as a weapon against dissent and free speech in large part because, early on, so many media outlets of the day actively aided and abetted blacklisting, as the Post has done for “The List.”

Consider how the Post story described the personnel of PropOrNot in favorable terms even while hiding all of their identities and thus shielding them from any scrutiny — calling them “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.”

So far The New Yorker has been the largest media outlet to directly confront the Post’s egregious story. Cogent assessments can also be found at The InterceptConsortium NewsCommon DreamsAlterNetRolling StoneFortuneCounterPunchThe Nation and numerous other sites.

But many mainline journalists and outlets jumped at the chance to amplify the Post’s piece of work. A sampling of the cheers from prominent journalists and liberal partisans was published by FAIR.org under the apt headline “Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited ‘Fake News’ Blacklist?

FAIR’s media analyst Adam Johnson cited enthusiastic responses to the bogus story from journalists like Bloomberg’s Sahil Kupar and MSNBC’s Joy Reid — and such outlets as USA TodayGizmodo, the PBS NewsHourThe Daily BeastSlateAPThe Verge and NPR, which “all uncritically wrote up the Post’s most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback.” On the MSNBC site, the Rachel Maddow Show’s blog “added another breathless write-up hours later, repeating the catchy talking point that ‘it was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign.’”

With so many people understandably upset about Trump’s victory, there’s an evident attraction to blaming the Kremlin, a convenient scapegoat for Hillary Clinton’s loss. But the Post’s blacklisting story and the media’s amplification of it — and the overall political environment that it helps to create — are all building blocks for a reactionary order, threatening the First Amendment and a range of civil liberties.

When liberals have green-lighted a witch-hunt, right wingers have been pleased to run with it. President Harry Truman issued an executive order in March 1947 to establish “loyalty” investigations in every agency of the federal government. Joe McCarthy and the era named after him were soon to follow.

In media and government, the journalists and officials who enable blacklisting are cravenly siding with conformity instead of democracy.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.




New Navy Ship Leaking Tax Dollars

Exclusive: The New Cold War with Russia provides a stronger budgetary lifeline for the Military-Industrial Complex than the War on Terror does while helping to quiet critics of wasteful spending, as Jonathan Marshall describes.

By Jonathan Marshall

The world’s mightiest navy is at risk of being sunk — not by a superior enemy, but by its own inability to acquire ships that work at a price that even the richest military on the planet can afford.

The U.S. Navy today has only 272 deployable warships — a decline of more than 50 percent in just the last three decades — of which fewer than a third put to sea at any given time. Although the U. S. Navy remains by far the strongest force of its kind, current fleet trends call into question its future ability to meet inflated global missions that include tracking Russian submarines in the Arctic, patrolling the Persian Gulf, and defeating China on its home seas.

Rather than rethink those missions, the Navy is clamoring for more appropriations to pay for budget-busting weapons systems. For example, the Navy wants a dozen new ballistic-missile-carrying nuclear submarines at an estimated cost of about $140 billion. A single new Ford Class nuclear aircraft carrier will cost taxpayers nearly $14 billion — and that doesn’t include the inordinately expensive aircraft it will carry or the support ships needed to help protect it.

Now soaring costs and operating snafus are crippling a class of vessels the Navy was counting on to bulk up the fleet at relatively low cost: the littoral combat ship (LCS). A senior Pentagon official just admitted to Congress that ill-managed attempts to fast-track the design and construction of the LCS have all but “broke the Navy.”

The LCS began entering the fleet in 2008 for various missions in coastal waters. With high performance engines and fast hull designs, the ships were meant to outrun speedy patrol boats. With a modular design, they could be reconfigured for different missions, including surface combat, mine-sweeping and hunting submarines. Smaller and less heavily armored than a frigate, they were supposed to be highly affordable.

Crippled Ships

But over the past 12 months, five of the eight LCS ships acquired so far have been crippled by construction defects, design errors, or crew mistakes. The USS Milwaukee broke down just 20 days after putting to sea and had to be towed back to Virginia. The USS Freedom limped back to port after seawater leaks rusted its engine during a 26-nation exercise in the Pacific. The USS Fort Worth crawled back to San Diego from Singapore after discovering a mechanical fault.

In August, the Navy ordered all LCS ships to “stand down” for 30 days and focus on evaluating crew training and operating practices. Even so, the USS Coronado broke down that month en route to Singapore. In September, the USS Montgomery suffered engine problems just three days after it was commissioned, forcing it to head back to Florida for repairs.

That was the backdrop for more bad news delivered Dec. 1 to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Paul Francis, an expert for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reported that the cost per ship has more than doubled, from $220 million to $478 million, since the early days of the program. Delivery is running about nine years behind schedule. The LCS fails to meet Navy objectives for speed and range and its mission capabilities “remain largely unproven.”

He explained that the Navy, rushing to acquire the ships, adopted a “buy before you fly” approach, committing to a large number of ships (originally 55, now 40) before the design was complete and the kinks had been worked out.

“The miracle of LCS didn’t happen,” Francis testified. “We are 26 ships into the contract and we still don’t know if it can do its job . . . Once the money wheel starts to turn, the business imperatives of budgets and contracts and ship construction take precedence over acquisition and oversight principles.”

At the same hearing, the director of the Pentagon’s weapons testing office delivered a devastating, 30-page assessment. The LCS, he said, “has not yet demonstrated effective war-fighting capability in any of its originally envisioned missions: surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and antisubmarine warfare . . . Furthermore, all of the ships have suffered from significant and repeated reliability problems. . . . Unless corrected, the critical problems . . . will continue to prevent the ship . . . from being operationally effective or operationally suitable in war.”

Near Zero Chance

Based on current performance, he added, the ships “have a near-zero chance of completing a 30-day mission (the Navy’s requirement) without a critical failure of one or more . . . subsystems essential for wartime operations.”

He also warned that the thinly armored aluminum ship is vulnerable to being knocked out of commission by a single enemy hit. Its one onboard gun defends poorly against aircraft or swarming patrol boats, and to date the LCS has “no capability to detect or defend against torpedoes.”

No problem; the Navy just “defined down” the ship’s mission. In 2012, the chief of naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, said he planned to keep the LCS out of a shooting war — using them instead for peacetime exercises, port visits, humanitarian assistance, and fighting pirates. By sending them to such relatively safe venues as Latin America and Africa, he explained, the Navy could free up more capable warships for riskier theaters.

The latest Navy plan is to buy 14 more of the ships, on top of the 26 already delivered or under contract, and to call a dozen of them frigates. The GAO’s expert asked the committee, “does a program that costs twice as much but delivers less capability than planned still warrant an additional investment of nearly $14 billion?”

You can be sure that Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and other military contractors with a stake in the program, will insist yes, of course.

So will the Navy, which hates losing battles of the budget as much as those at sea. Indeed, a joint statement to the committee by an assistant secretary of the Navy and the commander of naval surface forces insisted that the LCS “is of critical importance to our Navy,” provides “increased warfighting flexibility to our Fleet,” and offers “game changing [anti-submarine warfare] capability at an affordable cost.”

Although some members of Congress in both parties decry the program’s dismal record, most just want the pork to keep on coming. When the Pentagon last December proposed cutting the LCS program to 40 ships, hawks cried foul.

“Our Navy is at risk across the world and the weak and impotent Obama Administration seeks to further undermine our position with this ill-considered decision,” thundered Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Make no mistake about it, from Mobile to Marinette, from San Diego and Jacksonville, the bell has rung, and those in the Pentagon need to hear that this will not stand.”

With the GOP soon to be in charge of both the White House and Congress, the Navy will likely get what it wants in the short term. Why “drain the swamp” when you can sail right through it? But if current budget trends continue, the math will inevitably defeat even the Navy’s greatest champions and force a fundamental reexamination of how it does business.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic . Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews include “Nazi Roots of Ukraine’s Conflict,” “Escalations in a New Cold War,” “European Union’s Imperial Overreach,” and “Kosovo Chaos Undercuts Clinton ‘Success.’”




The Remarkable Story of Fidel Castro

Since Fidel Castro’s death, the mainstream U.S. news media has been on a flashback to the Cold War presenting one-sided denunciations of the “communist dictator,” but there is another side to the story, explains Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

When Fidel Castro died on Nov. 25 at the age of 90, we lost one of the most remarkable leaders of the Twentieth Century. No other head of state has so steadfastly stood up to the United States and survived.

In 1959, the Cuban Revolution, led by Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, overthrew the ruthless Fulgencio Batista, who had come to power in a coup d’état. Batista’s government had protected the interests of the wealthy landowners. In order to control the populace, Batista had carried out torture and public executions, killing as many as 20,000 people. During his regime, Batista was supported — financially and militarily — by the United States. Indeed, the U.S. Mafia’s gambling, drug and prostitution operations flourished under Batista’s government.

Led by Castro, the new Cuban government expropriated U.S.-owned property, companies and holdings in Cuba. The United States responded with a punishing economic embargo, which later became a blockade. The CIA attempted unsuccessfully to overthrow the revolution in the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

Since 1959, the U.S. government and the expatriated Cuban-Americans who fled Cuba after the revolution have tried mightily to topple the Castro government, without success. Castro survived more than 630 assassination attempts.

Legacy of Fidel Castro

“What’s amazing here is you’ve got a country that’s suffered an illegal economic blockade by the United States for almost half a century and yet it’s been able to give its people the best standard of health care, brilliant education,” Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, said in 2006. “To do this in the teeth of an almost economic war is a tribute to Fidel Castro.”

Castro practiced a unique form of internationalism. Nelson Mandela credited Cuba with helping to bring down the system of apartheid in South Africa. Cuba fought with the revolutionaries in Angola. And Cuba regularly sends doctors to other countries and provides foreign nationals with free medical education.

As Nelson Valdes noted in 2013, Castro, together with others, “shaped a foreign policy and national movement around the fundamental concept of national sovereignty, yet devoid of any self-centered nationalism.” He added, “This unique form of national self-determination incorporated other countries on an equal footing. In fact, national sovereignty and solidarity had precedence over ideology.” Thus, Valdes wrote, “Cuba has aided countries, despite the economic and political differences they may have.”

In 1953, in what is considered the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, Castro, his brother Raul and more than 100 other rebels mounted a failed attack against the Batista regime at the Moncada Barracks. Castro was arrested, tried, sentenced to 15 years in prison and released in an amnesty deal two years later.

At his trial, Castro famously said in his defense, “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me.”

U.S. Interference in Cuba

The U.S. economic embargo was initiated in 1960 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in response to a memorandum written by L.D. Mallory, a senior State Department official. Mallory proposed “a line of action that makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government.”

Cuba turned to the U.S.S.R. for assistance, which supported the Cuban Revolution until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1962, in response to the stationing of U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. After a tense standoff, Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy negotiated a withdrawal of the missiles from both Cuba and Turkey.

The economic blockade continues to this day. It is an illegal interference in the affairs of the Cuban people, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Charter of the Organization of American States. Every year for 26 consecutive years, the United Nations General Assembly has called on the United States to lift the blockade, which has cost Cuba in excess of $ 1 trillion.

U.S. meddling in Cuban affairs did not start in 1959. Since 1898, when the United States intervened in Cuba’s war for independence, the U.S. government has tried to dominate Cuba. The United States gained control of Guantanamo Bay in 1903, when Cuba was occupied by the U.S. Army after its intervention in Cuba’s war of independence against Spain.

Cuba was forced to accept the Platt Amendment to its constitution as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Cuba. That amendment provided the basis for a treaty granting the United States jurisdiction over Guantanamo Bay.

The 1903 agreement gave the United States the right to use Guantanamo Bay “exclusively as coaling or naval stations, and for no other purpose.” A 1934 treaty maintained U.S. control over Guantanamo Bay in perpetuity until the United States abandons it or until both Cuba and the United States agree to modify it. That treaty also limits its uses to “coaling and naval stations.”

None of these treaties or agreements gives the United States the right to use Guantanamo Bay as a prison, or to subject detainees to arbitrary detention or torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, which have been documented at the prison.

Castro, who called the Guantanamo base “a dagger plunged into the heart of Cuban soil,” refused to cash the rent checks the U.S. government sends annually. “An elemental sense of dignity and absolute disagreement with what happens in that portion of our national territory has prevented Cuba from cashing those checks,” he noted. The United States, according to Castro, transformed the Guantanamo base into a “horrible prison, one that bears no difference with the Nazi concentration camps.”

It is no accident that President George W. Bush chose Guantanamo Bay as the site for his illegal prison camp. His administration maintained that Guantanamo Bay is not a U.S. territory, and thus, U.S. courts were not available to the prisoners there. But, as the Supreme Court later affirmed, the United States, not Cuba, exercises exclusive jurisdiction over Guantanamo Bay, so habeas corpus is available to prisoners there.

Amnesty International aptly described the irony: “Given the USA’s criticism of the human rights record of Cuba, it is deeply ironic that it is violating fundamental rights on Cuban soil, and seeking to rely on the fact that it is on Cuban soil to keep the U.S. courts from examining its conduct.”

Since the revolution, anti-Cuba organizations based in Miami have engaged in countless terrorist activities against Cuba and anyone who advocated normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. These terrorist groups have operated with impunity in the United States with the knowledge and support of the FBI and CIA.

For example, Ruben Dario Lopez-Castro, associated with several anti-Castro organizations, and Orlando Bosch, who planted a bomb on a Cubana airliner in 1976, killing all 73 people aboard, “planned to ship weapons into Cuba for an assassination attempt on [Fidel] Castro.”

In the face of this terrorism, the Cuban Five came from Cuba to gather intelligence in Miami in order to prevent future terrorist acts against Cuba. The men peacefully infiltrated criminal exile groups. The Five turned over the results of their investigation to the FBI. But instead of working with Cuba to fight terrorism, the U.S. government arrested and convicted the five men of unfounded charges.

Human Rights in Cuba

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contain two different sets of human rights, respectively.

Civil and political rights include the rights to life, free expression, freedom of religion, fair trial, self-determination; and to be free from torture, cruel treatment and arbitrary detention.

Economic, social and cultural rights comprise the rights to education, health care, social security, unemployment insurance, paid maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, reduction of infant mortality; prevention, treatment and control of diseases, as well as the rights to form and join unions and strike.

The U.S. government criticizes civil and political rights in Cuba while disregarding Cubans’ superior access to universal housing, health care, education and its guarantee of paid maternity leave and equal-pay rates.

Unlike in the United States, health care is considered a right in Cuba. Universal health care is free to all. Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors to patients in the world, at 6.7 per 1,000 people. The 2014 infant mortality rate was 4.2 per 1,000 live births — one of the lowest in the world.

Free education is a universal right, up to and including higher education. Cuba spends a larger proportion of its gross domestic product on education than any other country in the world.

Cuban law guarantees the right to voluntarily form and join trade unions. Unions are legally independent and financially autonomous, independent of the Communist Party and the state. Unions have the right to stop work they consider dangerous. They have the right to participate in company management, to receive management information, to office space and materials, and to facility time for representatives. Union agreement is required for layoffs, changes in patterns of working hours and overtime, and for input on the annual safety report.

As of 2018, the date of the next Cuban general election and the date Raul Castro has promised to step down from the presidency, there will be a limit of no more than two five-year terms for all senior elected positions, including the president. Anyone can be nominated to be a candidate. It is not required that one be a member of the Communist Party. No money can be spent promoting candidates and no political parties (including the Communist Party) are permitted to campaign during elections. Military personnel are not on duty at polling stations; school children guard the ballot boxes.

In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund, a leading global environmental organization, determined that Cuba was the only country in the world to have achieved sustainable development.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has committed serious human rights violations on Cuban soil, including torture, cruel treatment and arbitrary detention at Guantanamo. And since 1960, the United States has expressly interfered with Cuba’s economic rights and its right to self-determination through the economic embargo.

Cuba is criticized for its restrictions on freedom of expression. Castro learned from the Guatemalan experience what would happen if he did not keep a tight rein on his revolutionary government. Jacobo Arbenz, a democratically elected president of Guatemala, carried out agrarian land reform, which expropriated uncultivated lands, compensated the owners and redistributed them to the peasantry. This program raised the hackles of the United Fruit Company, which enlisted the U.S. government to overthrow Arbenz. The CIA and the State Department obliged.

Stephen Kinzer wrote in his biography of the Dulles brothers that Guevara “told Castro why [the CIA coup in Guatemala] succeeded. He said Arbenz had foolishly tolerated an open society, which the CIA penetrated and subverted, and also preserved the existing army, which the CIA turned into its instrument. Castro agreed that a revolutionary regime in Cuba must avoid those mistakes. Upon taking power, he cracked down on dissent and purged the army.”

Obama Opens the Door

In 2006, Castro suffered a serious illness and turned over the reins of power in Cuba to his brother Raul, who became president in 2008.

On March 21, 2016, President Obama and Raul Castro held a joint press conference at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. Obama notably declared, “Perhaps most importantly, I affirmed that Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation. Cuba is sovereign and, rightly, has great pride. And the future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans, not by anybody else.” Unlike all prior U.S. presidents, Obama understands the significance of treating Cuba with respect.

This is a lesson Donald Trump will hopefully learn. The President-elect has sent mixed signals about whether he will continue Obama’s steps toward normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The businessman in him will be receptive to investment, and, indeed, hotel building, in Cuba.

But, pandering to Cuban-Americans in Florida during the election, Trump talked tough against Cuba’s government. “Many of our leaders seem to view Florida’s Cuban conservatives, including the assassins and terrorists among them, as People Who Vote,” Alice Walker wrote in The Sweet Abyss.

On the Cuban side, Raul Castro has made it clear that normalization cannot occur until the blockade is lifted and the United States returns Guantanamo to Cuba. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Harvard lecturer Jonathan Hansen wrote, “It is past time to return this imperialist enclave to Cuba,” adding, “It has served to remind the world of America’s long history of interventionist militarism.”

Normalization of relations will not happen overnight, Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five, told me when I visited Cuba last year. “We have to remember that relations between the countries have never been normal.” Antonio Guerrero, another member of the Five, added that normalization will require “the dismantling of the whole system of aggression against Cuba, especially the blockade.”

Castro survived 90 years. And Castro’s revolution survives, notwithstanding 57 years of aggression and assassination attempts by the United States.

“Fidel Castro was an authoritarian. He ruled with an iron fist. There was repression and is repression in Cuba. In Fidel’s kind of argument, he did it in the name of a different kind of democracy, a different kind of freedom — the freedom from illness, the freedom from racism, the freedom from social inequality,” Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project, told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! “And Cuba has a lot of very positives that all the other countries that we don’t talk about don’t have. There isn’t gang violence in Cuba. People aren’t being slaughtered around the streets by guns every day. They defeated the Zika virus right away. There is universal health care and universal education.”

In a 1998 NBC interview with Maria Shriver, Castro wryly noted, “For a small country such as Cuba to have such a gigantic country as the United States live so obsessed with this island, it is an honor for us.”

History has absolved, and promises to continue to absolve, “El Comandante” Fidel Castro.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.” Visit her website and follow her at Twitter @marjoriecohn.

This article first appeared on Truthdig [http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_remarkable_legacy_of_fidel_castro_20161202

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Clinton’s ‘Russia Did It’ Cop-out

Exclusive: In a last-ditch effort to salvage Hillary Clinton’s campaign, establishment Democrats are slinging McCarthyistic mud, joining in smearing independent journalists and blaming everything on Russia, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Clinton machine – running on fumes after Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid – is pulling out all remaining stops to block Donald Trump’s inauguration, even sinking into a new McCarthyism.

In joining a recount effort with slim hopes of reversing the election results, Clinton campaign counsel Marc Elias cited a scurrilous Washington Post article that relied on a shadowy anonymous group, called PropOrNot, that issued a “black list” against 200 or so Internet sites, including some of the most respected sources of independent journalism, claiming they are part of some Russian propaganda network.

In classic McCarthyistic fashion, no evidence was supplied, simply an anonymous smear. But The Washington Post, which itself has devolved into a neoconservative propaganda conveyor belt, published the attack apparently without contacting any of the targeted groups.

Despite the obvious journalistic problems with this article, the desperate Clinton campaign treated it like a lifeline to its drowning hopes for reversing the outcome of the Nov. 8 election.

Announcing that the Clinton campaign would join the recount started by Green presidential nominee Jill Stein aimed at three key Trump states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – Clinton’s campaign counsel Elias mentioned the Post story as one of the reasons.

“The Washington Post reported that the Russian government was behind much of the ‘fake news’ propaganda that circulated online in the closing weeks of the election,” Elias wrote.

Pro-Clinton media outlets piled on. Daily Kos wrote that “Even if they never touched a voting machine, there’s absolutely no doubt: Russia hacked the election.”

Besides the three recounts, the Clinton campaign’s last-ditch scheme to blame Russia for Hillary Clinton’s failure also involves lobbying the electors to the Electoral College to flip their votes from Trump to Clinton. The argument is that Trump must be part of some grand Russian conspiracy along with those 200 Web sites.

As bizarre as this conspiracy mongering has become, it is quickly emerging as a new Washington “group think.” All the “smart people” at the major networks and newspapers – as well as many Democratic insiders – are just sure that it’s all true.

They have conflated the hysteria over some “fake news” sites – apparently run by some entrepreneurs who realized that pro-Trump “news” got lots of clicks whether the stories were real or not – with the reality that some independent news sites have questioned the U.S. government’s extreme anti-Russian propaganda.

Plus, there was the claim by James Clapper, the Obama administration’s Director of National Intelligence, that the U.S. intelligence community believes that Russian hackers were responsible for giving Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks. There, too, however, Clapper has provided no evidence to support his claim, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied receiving the leaked emails from the Russian government.

The Russians Did It!

Nevertheless, the Russians have become the latest scapegoats for why Hillary Clinton lost. It wasn’t that she had severe problems as a candidate, carrying heavy baggage from a long line of controversies and recording extremely high negatives from voters. It couldn’t have been that lots of Americans didn’t like or trust her or that she offered no inspirational message or coherent narrative of how she would govern.

No, it had to be the Russians. Of course, previously, the Clinton campaign had blamed the defeat on FBI Director James Comey, who announced just days before the election that he had reopened an investigation into Clinton’s private email server and then closed the inquiry for a second time, thus reminding voters of Clinton’s self-inflicted email scandal.

Though presumably the Clinton campaign is not suggesting that FBI Director Comey is another Russian agent or “useful fool,” blaming him at least had some evidentiary logic, in that he did reopen and then re-shut the Clinton email investigation.

But the Clinton campaign’s Russian complaint comes across even more like a dog-ate-my-homework excuse, except that it also has this ugly side of accusing professional journalists of treason because they wrote skeptical articles that some anonymous Web site didn’t like.

The complaint about alleged Russian hacking of emails also represents an attempt to divert attention away from the fact that the information published by WikiLeaks appears to be entirely true. By all accounts, the leaks revealed genuine communications between Democratic Party leaders and people in the Clinton campaign.

WikiLeaks also revealed the contents of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and other special interests, words that she delivered to these groups of insiders but wanted to keep from the American voters.

However, somehow this truthful information has morphed into “fake news” without anyone explaining how that transformation occurred. Through the black magic of simply saying “Russians” a few times, truthful information becomes “fake” and everyone’s judgment becomes hopelessly clouded.

The point is that even if the Russians did uncover this information and did deliver it to WikiLeaks, the reason that it was “news” was that Clinton had decided to make millions of dollars in speeches, trading off her government service, and then chose to conceal the contents of her speeches from the public.

However, instead of criticizing Clinton for her excessive greed and her obsessive secrecy, these Democrats are blaming the Russians, a classic case of sending out a red herring.

The Truth as ‘Fake News’

The same point holds true for Secretary of State Clinton’s disastrous decision to evade State Department regulations on handling official documents by instead channeling her emails through a private home email server, thus endangering national security secrets. That was her choice. The Russians weren’t involved (unless someone thinks that Hillary Clinton is also a “Russian agent” set on sabotaging her own campaign.)

And, regarding WikiLeaks’ disclosures that the Democratic National Committee was working hand-in-glove with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and others to ensure that the nomination was delivered to Clinton, the problem was not the source of the information, again it was the information itself. Rank-in-file Democrats had every right to expect a legitimate competition for the party’s nomination, not a rigged process designed to deliver the prize to the establishment favorite.

The reason for the party’s reforms after the raucous 1968 convention was to take the presidential selection out of the hands of party insiders and give it to the voters. What the emails revealed was that the Clinton machine had become the new-age Democratic Party bosses making sure their candidate prevailed.

Again, even if the Russians were behind the hack, they would only have been providing the American people with newsworthy information about how their democracy was being turned into a sham. The Russians didn’t create the sham; the Democratic insiders did.

And, regarding the anonymously developed “black list” of independent media sites, there is no evidence there either that these sites were distributing “fake news,” the focus of the current mainstream media hysteria. It was just news that PropOrNot — and presumably its fellow-travelers at The Washington Post — didn’t like.

As for Consortiumnews, which was one of the sites that was slimed, we are very careful to present well-reported and well-researched information. Granted, it sometimes isn’t what the U.S. State Department wants the American people to hear, but that is because the State Department has become a manufacturing center for propaganda and disinformation during both Republican and Democratic administrations.

It is not the job of independent journalists to simply retail the propaganda that the State Department and other agencies of the U.S. government produce, or that any other government produces. But that seems to be the anti-journalistic attitude that we now see at The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Mainstream Media’s Shame

Tragically, the mainstream U.S. media has become a major disseminator of endless amounts of “fake news,” including highly misleading and false coverage of the Middle East and of the New Cold War. Possibly the most destructive modern case of “fake news” was the reporting by the Post and Times about the existence of Iraq’s fictional WMD.

But there are more recent cases. For instance, the Times and Post have studiously ignored the reality of neo-Nazi and other ultranationalists serving as the tip of the spear for the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014. Occasionally, one of their field reporters will mention the inconvenient truth about the Azov and other battalions running around with Swastikas and SS symbols, but the newspapers will then turn a blind eye to this ugly reality or minimize its significance.

So, neo-Nazis are okay in Ukraine – and if any independent news outlet mentions their existence, you end up on a Washington Post-promoted “black list.” However, if some claim is made linking Russia to a neo-Nazi outfit or to some coup plotting – no matter how hazy or dubious the claim – it is trumpeted as loudly as possible.

For example, the Post’s lead editorial on Friday asserted, “In NATO member Hungary, Russian agents have been fingered for training with a neo-Nazi militia; in the tiny Balkan state of Macedonia, which is on the verge of joining the [NATO] transatlantic alliance, Moscow is accused of plotting a violent coup.”

Though the Post admits the evidence is “incomplete,” it presses ahead with the allegations. Yet there is no self-awareness or self-criticism; since the Post strenuously supported the violent coup in Ukraine that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych, a putsch spearheaded by armed neo-Nazis, many of whom have since been incorporated into Ukraine’s security forces and have received U.S. military training.

In the weeks before the coup, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was caught conspiring with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on how to “midwife” or “glue” the change in Ukraine’s leadership. “Yats is the guy,” Nuland enthused about Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was indeed installed as prime minister after Yanukovych was forced to flee for his life.

However, simply recalling that history apparently now is forbidden in Official Washington.

Behind the Clinton Machine

There’s also the little-discussed issue of how the Clinton machine evolved and currently works. A short version of that history is that the Democrats got pummeled in 1988, in part, because Republicans “weaponized” their advantage in campaign cash to launch devastating attack ads against Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, including the race-baiting Willie Horton ads.

Sensing that they couldn’t beat the Republican money while trying to represent the average citizen, the national Democrats largely abandoned the working class to join the dollar chase. They developed a pro-corporate agenda pushed by the Democratic Leadership Council and its brightest star, Bill Clinton.

After winning in 1992, Clinton and his understudies, the likes of John Podesta, institutionalized this relationship between the Democratic Party and various financial and other special interests. Then, after Clinton left office in 2001, his money machine’s business model adapted, with the Clinton Foundation and various Democratic-led Beltway consulting firms expanding or setting up shop.

The key to the strategy was always that Hillary Clinton would eventually become president and therefore foreign governments and domestic interests had to stay on the Clintons’ good side.

The expectation was that Hillary Clinton would get elected in 2008, but her path was blocked by the charismatic Barack Obama. Obama, however, bailed the Clinton machine out by naming her Secretary of State. So, the Clinton influence with foreign potentates remained.

After Clinton left the State Department in 2013, the business model still thrived because she was widely viewed as the clear front-runner to succeed President Obama – and both Clintons cashed in by giving speeches to various business groups and foreign interests for several hundred thousand dollars a pop, totaling in the millions of dollars.

You might have thought that the Clinton machine would have shielded Hillary Clinton from this apparent pay-to-play operation but instead she joined Bill Clinton in raking in the dough, a sign of startling arrogance or stunning greed.

The idea that Hillary Clinton could “power through” the obvious conflicts of interest that these speeches presented and that she could hide from the voters what she told Goldman Sachs and other well-heeled groups further revealed an extraordinary hubris. Clinton and her entourage brushed aside demands from Sen. Bernie Sanders and his populist backers that she disclose what she had said to the rich and powerful.

That brazenness made her vulnerable to the WikiLeaks disclosures late in the campaign revealing her friendly advice to Goldman Sachs and the others. Again, the only reason that was “news” was because Clinton and her team had stonewalled public demands for the information earlier. But rather than taking the blame for that judgment, they blamed the Russians.

The next question for the national Democrats is what will replace the Clinton machine or will it just be retooled in some new way that keeps the money pouring in. Clearly, the old business model of hitting up donors with the implicit club of a Hillary Clinton presidency in the closet will no longer work.

That means possibly leaner years for both the Clinton Foundation and Clinton-related businesses, such as the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm led by John Podesta’s brother, Tony, which has collected annual lobbying fees in the tens of millions of dollars.

But the Democrats risk a bleak political future if they don’t break away from the corporatist model that Bill and Hillary Clinton have personified over the past quarter century. Or maybe the Democrats can just keep on blaming the Russians.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Orwellian War on Skepticism“; “The Fake News About Fake News“; and “Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt.“]

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




A Bare-Knuckle Fight Over Recounts

Democrats are trying to stop Donald Trump’s inauguration by claiming Russian interference in the election, but the White House sees no evidence and Trump is now challenging the recounts, reports Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria

When the Clinton campaign said it would join the recount in three Rust Belt states narrowly lost to Donald Trump, it didn’t say its motive was overcoming the vote totals but instead to find out if there was “foreign interference” in the election.

“This election cycle was unique in the degree of foreign interference witnessed throughout the campaign,” wrote Clinton campaign counsel Marc Elias. “The U.S. government concluded that Russian state actors were behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the personal email accounts of Hillary for America campaign officials.”

During the campaign Hillary Clinton made no secret of where she thought that foreign interference might be coming from. She repeatedly blamed Russia for trying to sway the election.

When the Green Party’s Jill Stein launched her recount campaign in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (the three states that gave Trump the victory), Stein’s announcement quoted her on her website as saying that because “foreign agents” had “hacked into party databases, private email servers, and voter databases in certain states, many Americans are wondering if our election results are reliable.” Stein’s page was then updated to eliminate reference to “foreign agents” in her quote.

But her recount petition filed in Wisconsin begins by saying “it was widely reported that foreign operators breached voter registration databases in at least two states and stole hundreds of thousands of voter records.” The petition then says the U.S. intelligence community is “confident” Russia was behind the hacks. There is “well-documented and conclusive evidence of foreign interference in the presidential race before the election … [that] call[s] into question the results and indicate the possibility that (a) widespread breach occurred,” Stein’s lawyers wrote.

In fact the intelligence community has never made public its evidence for independent computer experts to weigh in on. After the election, the Obama administration said it had no proof of Russian interference in the election tallies and that the results “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

Citing Press Articles

Nevertheless, Exhibit A in Stein’s petition is an affidavit from Professor J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, who alleges that Russia hacked the election. Halderman took part in a conference call with the Clinton campaign last month trying to convince the campaign to seek a recount, which it only did after Stein launched her effort.

Exhibit B from Stein’s petition is an article from Wired Magazine about Russia’s alleged role in the hack. Exhibit C is a New York Times article quoting DellSecureWorks, a private security firm, saying Russia was behind the hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The company says Podesta clicked on a phishing link to gain access to his account. The Times relied on the company’s word that Russian spies were behind the phishing expedition, without also offering any proof that could be analyzed by other computer security experts.

Exhibits D through G — meaning all of Stein’s exhibits — are on alleged Russian hacking. One article is about an alleged attempted Russian hack of the 2014, post-coup Ukrainian election.

In her many media appearances since launching the recount campaign, Stein has carefully avoided mentioning Russia, or foreign agents, as she inadvertently did in her initial web posting. But her petition is about nothing else but Russia’s alleged hacking of the election.

Scott McLarty, the Green Party national media coordinator, told me in an email last week that the Green Party has “not taken a position on meddling by foreign agents.” Since then, top Green Party officials have distanced themselves from Stein, including her running mate, Ajamu Baraka.

“I’m not in favor of the recount,” Baraka told CNN. He said he told Stein “it was a potentially dangerous move” because it “would be seen as carrying the water for the Democrats.”

Margaret Flowers, the Green’s Senate candidate in Maryland, posted an open letter signed by several prominent party members saying, “While we support electoral reforms, including how the vote is counted, we do not support the current recount being undertaken by Jill Stein.”

The recount, however, does appear to have gotten under the skin of Donald Trump and his allies who, on Friday, went to courts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, seeking to stop any further examination of the votes. The challenges did not immediately stop the recounts but could create legal complications down the road.

Lobbying the Electors

Since recounts that overturn the vote totals seem unlikely, it appears the Clinton campaign’s Plan B is to use any evidence of tampering that it can pin on Russia to lobby electors to change their votes to Clinton when the Electoral College meets in state capitals on Dec. 19.

Trump won the electoral college 306 to 232. That means 38 Republican electors would have to be convinced to change their vote to Clinton to reach the required 270 to win the White House.

Finding evidence of hacking of election computers that can somehow be blamed on Russia could be crucial for the Clinton team in their effort to convince electors to change their vote.

Russia has been blamed in the U.S. for many things and though proof never seems to be supplied, it is widely believed anyway. It has been accepted as fact by American corporate media, for instance, that Russia invaded Ukraine and had a hand in shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17, though the supposed evidence is more argumentative than conclusive.

Emotional appeals to elector’s patriotism and defense of the American system against interference by Russia could make a persuasive argument, however.

At an event at Harvard University on Thursday, Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, repeatedly blamed Russia for hacking and tampering with the election. “Congress has got to investigate what happened with Russia here,” said Mook. “It is outrageous that a foreign aggressor got involved in our election.”

Robert Reich, labor secretary under President Bill Clinton and a Hillary supporter, argued that one reason the electors should flip to Clinton is to “stop foreign interference in an election.”

Quoting on article, he wrote on Facebook: “The Framers were extremely concerned about infiltration by rivals including Great Britain. In Federalist No. 68, Hamilton wrote that one major purpose of the Electoral College was to stop the ‘desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.’ He said that the college would, ‘Guard against all danger of this sort … with the most provident and judicious attention’ from the electors.”

Reich continued: “There’s incontrovertible evidence Russia interfered in the campaign by hacking the email accounts of top Democratic officials and cooperating with WikiLeaks’ parallel campaign to undermine Hillary Clinton campaign.” If such incontrovertible evidence exists, the Obama administration’s intelligence community has not shared it with the public.

Clinton operatives are also making her victory by more than 2 million popular votes part of their appeal to electors to switch sides.

Twenty-four states do not legally bind electors to the popular vote in their states. Elsewhere, electors face fines of about $1,000 if they vote against the will of the people of their states.

Laurence Tribe, a well-known and connected Democratic lawyer, has offered to defend pro bono any elector who breaks the law by changing their vote to Clinton. And there are plans to mount a constitutional challenge against the 26 states that legally bind the electors’ to their state’s popular vote.

Accompanying Media Campaign

The lobbying effort to blame Russia and get the electors to flip their votes is being accompanied by an intense media campaign.

In the announcement that the Clinton campaign would join the recount, campaign counsel Elias aligned the campaign with an unverified Washington Post article based largely on a shadowy, anonymous group that blamed a list of 200 alternative media sites and political groups for spreading Russian propaganda to influence the election, without providing any evidence.

“The Washington Post reported that the Russian government was behind much of the ‘fake news’ propaganda that circulated online in the closing weeks of the election,” Elias wrote.

A Huffington Post article said one of the eight reasons the electors should overturn the election is because “Russian covert action influenced the election.”

The staunchly pro-Clinton Daily Kos wrote that “Even if they never touched a voting machine, there’s absolutely no doubt: Russia hacked the election.”

If evidence of hacking is found in the recounts, the Clinton campaign would be greatly aided in lobbying electors with confirmation from the Obama administration that Russia was behind it. But on the day before the Clinton team joined the recount, the Obama administration appeared to throw a wrench into the plan to blame Russia.

The administration said it remained “confident in the overall integrity of electoral infrastructure, a confidence that was borne out,” adding: “As a result, we believe our elections were free and fair from a cyber-security perspective.”

The timing of that statement may have been intended to undermine Clinton as a split was reported between President Obama and Hillary Clinton over whether to have a recount.

Not satisfied with the administration’s conclusion, a group of Democratic senators on Thursday asked that information about Russian hacking should be declassified and released to the public.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded that the administration would take a look at the request. But he added that the intelligence community “did not observe an increase in malicious cyber-activity on Election Day from the Russians that was directed at disrupting the casting or counting of ballots.”

Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@gmail.com  and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.

 




A Trump Plus: Reduced Tensions with Russia

For many Americans, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was painful – a classic case of choosing a lesser evil – but William Blum sees at least some hope in Trump’s turning away from war with Russia.

By William Blum

That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant. That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant. That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant. What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia.

His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of U.S. regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

Even more so is his appointment of General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Flynn dined last year in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT (Russia Today), the Russian state’s English-language, leftist-leaning TV channel. Flynn now carries the stigma in the American media as an individual who does not see Russia or Putin as the devil. It is truly remarkable how nonchalantly American journalists can look upon the possibility of a war with Russia, even a nuclear war.

(I can now expect a barrage of emails from my excessively politically-correct readers about Flynn’s alleged anti-Islam side. But that, even if true, is irrelevant to this discussion of avoiding a war with Russia.)

I think American influence under Trump could also inspire a solution to the bloody Russia-Ukraine crisis, which is the result of the U.S. overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to further advance the U.S./NATO surrounding of Russia; after which he could end the U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia, which hardly anyone in Europe benefits from or wants; and then – finally! – an end to the embargo against Cuba. What a day for celebration that will be! Too bad that Fidel won’t be around to enjoy it.

We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton would do this, but I think there’s at least a chance with the Donald. And those three heroes may now enjoy feeling at least a modicum of hope. Picture a meeting of them all together on some future marvelous day with you watching it on a video.

Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam because of any fear of being called anti-Islam. He’s repulsed enough by ISIS to want to destroy them, something that can’t always be said about Mr. Obama.

International trade deals, written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of their bosses, with little concern about the rest of us, may have rougher sailing in the Trump White House than is usually the case with such deals.

The mainstream critics of Trump foreign policy should be embarrassed, even humbled, by what they supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Instead, what bothers them about the President-elect is his lack of desire to make the rest of the world in America’s image. He appears rather to be more concerned with the world not making America in its image.

In the latest chapter of Alice in Trumpland, he now says that he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton, that he has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he had vowed to withdraw the United States, and that he’s no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea. So whatever fears you may have about certain of his expressed weird policies … just wait … they may fall by the wayside just as easily; although I still think that on a personal level he’s a [two-syllable word: first syllable is a synonym for a donkey; second syllable means “an opening”]

Trump’s apparently deep-seated need for approval may continue to succumb poorly to widespread criticism and protests. Poor little Donald … so powerful … yet so vulnerable.

The Trump dilemma, as well as the whole Hillary Clinton mess, could have probably been avoided if Bernie Sanders had been nominated. That large historical “if” is almost on a par with the Democrats choosing Harry Truman to replace Henry Wallace in 1944 as the ailing Roosevelt’s vice president. Truman brought us a charming little thing called the Cold War, which in turn gave us McCarthyism. But Wallace, like Sanders, was just a little too damn leftist for the refined Democratic Party bosses.

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/ .]




The Orwellian War on Skepticism

Special Report: Official Washington’s rush into an Orwellian future is well underway as political and media bigwigs move to silence Internet voices of independence and dissent, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Under the cover of battling “fake news,” the mainstream U.S. news media and officialdom are taking aim at journalistic skepticism when it is directed at the pronouncements of the U.S. government and its allies.

One might have hoped that the alarm about “fake news” would remind major U.S. news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, about the value of journalistic skepticism. However, instead, it seems to have done the opposite.

The idea of questioning the claims by the West’s officialdom now brings calumny down upon the heads of those who dare do it. “Truth” is being redefined as whatever the U.S. government, NATO and other Western interests say is true. Disagreement with the West’s “group thinks,” no matter how fact-based the dissent is, becomes “fake news.”

So, we have the case of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius having a starry-eyed interview with Richard Stengel, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, the principal arm of U.S. government propaganda.

Entitled “The truth is losing,” the column laments that the official narratives as deigned by the State Department and The Washington Post are losing traction with Americans and the world’s public.

Stengel, a former managing editor at Time magazine, seems to take aim at Russia’s RT network’s slogan, “question more,” as some sinister message seeking to inject cynicism toward the West’s official narratives.

“They’re not trying to say that their version of events is the true one. They’re saying: ‘Everybody’s lying! Nobody’s telling you the truth!’,” Stengel said. “They don’t have a candidate, per se. But they want to undermine faith in democracy, faith in the West.”

No Evidence

Typical of these recent mainstream tirades about this vague Russian menace, Ignatius’s column doesn’t provide any specifics regarding how RT and other Russian media outlets are carrying out this assault on the purity of Western information. It’s enough to just toss around pejorative phrases supporting an Orwellian solution, which is to stamp out or marginalize alternative and independent journalism, not just Russian.

Ignatius writes: “Stengel poses an urgent question for journalists, technologists and, more broadly, everyone living in free societies or aspiring to do so. How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

“Stengel argues that the U.S. government should sometimes protect citizens by exposing ‘weaponized information, false information’ that is polluting the ecosystem. But ultimately, the defense of truth must be independent of a government that many people mistrust. ‘There are inherent dangers in having the government be the verifier of last resort,’ he argues.”

By the way, Stengel is not the fount of truth-telling, as he and Ignatius like to pretend. Early in the Ukraine crisis, Stengel delivered a rant against RT that was full of inaccuracies or what you might call “fake news.”

Yet, what Stengel and various mainstream media outlets appear to be arguing for is the creation of a “Ministry of Truth” managed by mainstream U.S. media outlets and enforced by Google, Facebook and other technology platforms.

In other words, once these supposedly responsible outlets decide what the “truth” is, then questioning that narrative will earn you “virtual” expulsion from the marketplace of ideas, possibly eliminated via algorithms of major search engines or marked with a special app to warn readers not to believe what you say, a sort of yellow Star of David for the Internet age.

And then there’s the possibility of more direct (and old-fashioned) government enforcement by launching FBI investigations into media outlets that won’t toe the official line. (All of these “solutions” have been advocated in recent weeks.)

On the other hand, if you do toe the official line that comes from Stengel’s public diplomacy shop, you stand to get rewarded with government financial support. Stengel disclosed in his interview with Ignatius that his office funds “investigative” journalism projects.

“How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth?” Ignatius asks, adding: “Stengel has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers.”

Buying Propaganda

After reading Ignatius’s column on Wednesday, I submitted a question to the State Department asking for details on this “journalism” and “truth-telling” funding that is coming from the U.S. government’s top propaganda shop, but I have not received an answer.

But we do know that the U.S. government has been investing tens of millions of dollars in various media programs to undergird Washington’s desired narratives.

For instance, in May 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”

USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the 2014 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian and U.S.-backed regime, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” skills that would have been quite helpful to the coup plotters.

USAID, working with currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society, also has funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.

Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what appeared to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.

Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Higgins is now associated with the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank which is partially funded by the U.S. State Department.

Beyond funding from the State Department and USAID, tens of millions of dollars more are flowing through the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was started in 1983 under the guiding hand of CIA Director William Casey.

NED became a slush fund to help finance what became known, inside the Reagan administration, as “perception management,” the art of controlling the perceptions of domestic and foreign populations.

The Emergence of StratCom

Last year, as the New Cold War heated up, NATO created the Strategic Communications Command in Latvia to further wage information warfare against Russia and individuals who were contesting the West’s narratives.

As veteran war correspondent Don North reported in 2015 regarding this new StratCom, “the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’

“This attitude has led to treating psy-ops — manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions — as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.”

Now, the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress are moving to up the ante, passing new legislation to escalate “information warfare.”

On Wednesday, U.S. congressional negotiators approved $160 million to combat what they deem foreign propaganda and the alleged Russian campaign to spread “fake news.” The measure is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and gives the State Department the power to identify “propaganda” and counter it.

This bipartisan stampede into an Orwellian future for the American people and the world’s population follows a shoddily sourced Washington Post article that relied on a new anonymous group that identified some 200 Internet sites, including some of the most prominent American independent sources of news, as part of a Russian propaganda network.

Typical of this new McCarthyism, the report lacked evidence that any such network actually exists but instead targeted cases where American journalists expressed skepticism about claims from Western officialdom.

Consortiumnews.com was included on the list apparently because we have critically analyzed some of the claims and allegations regarding the crises in Syria and Ukraine, rather than simply accept the dominant Western “group thinks.”

Also on the “black list” were such quality journalism sites as Counterpunch, Truth-out, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and ZeroHedge along with many political sites ranging across the ideological spectrum.

The Fake-News Express

Normally such an unfounded conspiracy theory would be ignored, but – because The Washington Post treated the incredible allegations as credible – the smear has taken on a life of its own, reprised by cable networks and republished by major newspapers.

But the unpleasant truth is that the mainstream U.S. news media is now engaged in its own fake-news campaign about “fake news.” It’s publishing bogus claims invented by a disreputable and secretive outfit that just recently popped up on the Internet. If that isn’t “fake news,” I don’t know what is.

Yet, despite the Post’s clear violations of normal journalistic practices, surely, no one there will pay a price, anymore than there was accountability for the Post reporting as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003. Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor most responsible for that catastrophic “group think,” is still in the same job today.

Two nights ago, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews featured the spurious Washington Post article in a segment that – like similar rehashes –didn’t bother to get responses from the journalists being slandered.

I found that ironic since Matthews repeatedly scolds journalists for their failure to look skeptically at U.S. government claims about Iraq possessing WMD as justification for the disastrous Iraq War. However, now Matthews joins in smearing journalists who have applied skepticism to U.S. and Western propaganda claims about Syria and/or Ukraine.

While the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament begin to take action to shut down or isolate dissident sources of information – all in the name of “democracy” – a potentially greater danger is that mainstream U.S. news outlets are already teaming up with technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to impose their own determinations about “truth” on the Internet.

Or, as Ignatius puts it in his column reflecting Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Stengel’s thinking, “The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms.

“‘They see this information war as an existential threat,’ says Stengel. … The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps ‘machine learning‘ [presumably a reference to algorithms] can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a ‘global ombudsman for information.’”

Ministry of Truth

An organization of some 30 mainstream media companies already exists, including not only The Washington Post and The New York Times but also the Atlantic Council-connected Bellingcat, as the emerging arbiters – or ombudsmen – for truth, something Orwell described less flatteringly as a “Ministry of Truth.”

The New York Times has even editorialized in support of Internet censorship, using the hysteria over “fake news” to justify the marginalization or disappearance of dissident news sites.

It now appears that this 1984-ish “MiniTrue” will especially target journalistic skepticism when applied to U.S. government and mainstream media “group thinks.”

Yet, in my four decades-plus in professional journalism, I always understood that skepticism was a universal journalistic principle, one that should be applied in all cases, whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House or whether some foreign leader is popular or demonized.

As we have seen in recent years, failure to ask tough questions and to challenge dubious claims from government officials and mainstream media outlets can get lots of people killed, both U.S. soldiers and citizens of countries invaded or destabilized by outsiders.

To show skepticism is not the threat to democracy that Undersecretary Stengel and columnist Ignatius appear to think it is.

Whether you like or dislike RT’s broadcasts – or more likely have never seen one – a journalist really can’t question its slogan: “question more.” Questioning is the essence of journalism and, for that matter, democracy.

[In protest of the Post’s smearing of independent journalists, RootsAction has undertaken a petition drive, which can be found here.]

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).