Jingoistic Military Fetishization Is as American as Bald Eagle McNuggets

There’s nothing alien or un-American about Trump’s July 4th military hardware parade, writes Caitlin Johnstone. 

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

“Putin’s America,” tweeted Anand Giridharadas, a pundit who was genetically engineered in a Monsanto laboratory to appeal to NPR listeners on every possible level.

Giridharadas used these words to caption a short video clip of two tanks being carted through the streets of D.C. in preparation for their appearance in a parade for Independence Day, a holiday in which Americans gather to eat hot dogs and drink Mountain Dew in celebration of the anniversary of their lateral transfer from monarchy to corporatist oligarchy.

The military hardware parade is taking place at the behest of President Bolton’s social media assistant Donald Trump, and critics have been vocally decrying it as alien and un-American. Pundits like Giridharadas and Steve Silberman have been saying it’s something Russia would do. The Independent said it’s a spectacle you’d see in “authoritarian regimes such as North Korea, Iran and China.” Adam Best and Charles Pierce both likened it to something that would be done in a “banana republic,” an interesting choice of phrase for a gratuitous display of American military bravado given that term’s blood-soaked origins in U.S. corporate colonialism.

All of these people are of course being ridiculous. There’s nothing alien or un-American about Trump’s parade at all. Jingoistic fetishization of the military is as American as a deep-fried trademark symbol.

All this parade is, actually, is just one of the many times over the last two and a half years that Trump has shown America its true face, and Americans haven’t liked what they’ve seen.

“That’s not my reflection!” the Americans scream at the mirror he holds up for them. “That’s Putin!”

“That’s not my reflection!” they protest. “That’s North Korea!”

“That’s not my reflection!” they say. “That’s a banana republic!”

No, America. That’s you. It’s been you all along.

This is the same country, after all, in which someone simply mentioning that they were in the armed forces often elicits a reverent “Oh, thank you for your service!” from whoever happens to hear them, as though spending four years protecting Raytheon profit margins and crude oil is something ordinary civilians should be grateful for. You guys know no other country does that, right? In Australia if you tell someone you were in the army they’ll tell you “Aww, bonza mate. I’m a plumber meself.” It’s not a thing, because when you’re not part of the most powerful military force in the history of civilization, powerful people don’t have nearly as much invested in making a thing out of it.

Cult of Idolatry

This is the same country where every second house and every single McDonald’s has its flag flying over it, a cult of idolatry that’s become so ubiquitous that a football player choosing to kneel instead of stand before that stupid piece of cloth generates national outrage. The same country where simply bleating “Support the troops!” or “Freedom isn’t free!” was in and of itself seen as a be-all, end-all debate-winning argument for the rape of Iraq. The same country that spent weeks on end mourning the death of bloodthirsty psychopath John McCain on the grounds that he’s a “war hero” when they should have loaded his heartless cadaver onto a trebuchet and launched it into the nearest tire fire as part of a telethon benefit for Syria.

All that’s considered perfectly normal by mainstream America, and liberals are getting their knickers in a knot over a few tanks and “Blue Angels” (another ridiculous yet perfectly normalized American spectacle)? Hell, it’s not even like Trump invented presidential parades full of instruments of mass military slaughter.

Check out this photo from JFK’s inaugural parade:

 

Or this one from Eisenhower’s:

 

 

Or this one from FDR’s:

 

And the fact that it’s mostly Democrats kvetching about this parade is especially absurd, given that in 2019 they’ve somehow managed to become even more hawkish and jingoistic than the Republicans. This is the same crowd that just the other day was attacking Trump for having the audacity to meet with Kim Jong-Un, the same crowd that’s constantly accusing Trump of being weak on Syria and Afghanistan, the same crowd that’s made heroes of the U.S. intelligence community and the “grownups in the room” generals in the administration, and the same crowd that’s been shrieking hysterically for the last three years demanding greater and greater escalations against a nuclear superpower. The biggest problem with Trump’s tank parade will be that male Democrats in attendance will have trouble hiding their erections.

Americans are the most aggressively propagandized people in the world, and U.S. service personnel are the most aggressively propagandized people in America. That’s the group that all this special reverence and fetishization has been attached to: a bunch of kids who’ve been manipulated into killing and dying for plutocratic investments and the mommy-shaped hole in John Bolton’s heart. That’s what this parade is meant to manufacture even more support for in a culture that is saturated past the brim in a relentless barrage of war propaganda.

Face it, America. Trump’s tank parade isn’t in any way alien to anything you’ve ever stood for. The only way to make it more American would be to add a few monster trucks and a Kardashian. This parade is your reflection. This parade is you.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.




Survey: Americans Have Remarkably Ignorant Attitude Toward Nukes & North Korea

Caitlin Johnstone says the correct response to North Korea having nuclear retaliatory capability is simple: leave it alone.

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

Half of the responders to an innovative new survey of 3,000 Americans conducted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the British research firm YouGov reported that they would support a nuclear strike against North Korea if it tested a long-range missile capable of reaching the continental United States. A third said they’d actually prefer such a strike over other hypothetical responses.

“For example, while ‘only’ 33 percent of the U.S. public prefer a U.S. preventive nuclear strike that would kill 15,000 North Koreans, 50 percent approve,” the report reads.

The study found little change in preference for a preemptive nuclear strike whether the hypothetical scenario offered to respondents entailed the death of 15,000 North Korean civilians or one million. Preferences for a preemptive strike only dropped when the hypothetical scenario reduced the probability of success (meaning elimination of North Korea’s nuclear retaliatory capabilities) was reduced from ninety to fifty percent.

The survey found a large knowledge deficit in responders regarding nuclear weapons, with a majority reporting an unrealistic amount of confidence in both the U.S. military’s ability to eliminate all of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in a preemptive strike and in its ability to shoot down North Korean missiles using current missile defense systems. This inaccurate perspective was significantly higher among supporters of President Donald Trump.

While the study found that a majority of Americans would prefer to de-escalate against North Korea if given the choice, a jarring number of them would be willing to use nuclear weapons at the drop of a hat, and believe it’s possible to do so at relatively little risk to Americans.

“As we have previously found, the U.S. public exhibits only limited aversion to nuclear weapons use and a shocking willingness to support the killing of enemy civilians,” write the report’s authors.

Why Expect Anything Else?

And really, why would we expect anything else? After all, Americans are taught the lie since they are children that their nation, the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, did so with the goal of bringing a quick and painless end to a horrible world war. Like so much else, this ultimately boils down to the effects of propaganda.

“Most Americans have been taught that using atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was justified because the bombings ended the war in the Pacific, thereby averting a costly U.S. invasion of Japan,” reads an excellent 2016 LA Times article on this subject by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznik. “This erroneous contention finds its way into high school history texts still today.”

In reality, the sole purpose of dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was not to end the war, but to show the rest of the world in general and the Soviets in particular that the United States had both the capability and the savagery to wipe out any city in the world with a single bomb. The war, in fact, had already been won, and the Japanese were already on the brink of surrender as the fearsome Soviet forces entered into the war in the Pacific. The narrative that the use of nuclear bombs was a tragic but necessary means to end World War II is a lie that the U.S. has used its cultural hegemony to circulate around the world, much like the lie that America was mostly responsible for Germany’s defeat and not the U.S.S.R.

I always get a lot of pushback from Americans when I point to this, not because I don’t have facts on my side but because it’s so glaringly different from the dominant narratives that Americans are spoon fed in school. If you don’t believe me, read the aforementioned LA Times article titled Bombing Hiroshima changed the world, but it didn’t end WWII,” or this article from The Nation, or this one from Mises Institute.

Seriously, read the articles if this is upsetting you. This is an established fact to which contemporary generals at the time have attested. The uncomfortable feeling you’re experiencing upon reading this is called cognitive dissonance. It’s what learning you’ve been lied to your whole life feels like.

This report on the American public’s widespread ignorance of and indifference to the consequences of nuclear weapons use comes shortly after the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff briefly published and then removed from public access an update on their position on the use of nukes which contains the alarming line, “Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”

So the people responsible for forming America’s nuclear strategies believe using nuclear weapons is not just acceptable, but potentially beneficial. The mass media have been completely ignoring this horrifying revelation, and the public are too awash in disinformation to do anything about it themselves.

The correct response to North Korea having nuclear retaliatory capabilities is the same as the response to any other nuclear power: leave them alone. The narrative that North Korea’s leadership is likely to launch an unprovoked attack is exactly as baseless and moronic as the narratives about Iraq or Iran launching an unprovoked attack. It’s not a thing.

The Warping Effect

As tensions continue to escalate between nuclear powers around the world while the faltering U.S. empire becomes increasingly desperate to maintain its global hegemony, human extinction via nuclear annihilation is just as real a possibility as it was at the height of the last Cold War.

But it isn’t just the use of nuclear weapons which threatens us. Their very existence warps us as a species. In her book “The Algebra of Infinite Justice,” Arundhati Roy writes:

“It is such supreme folly to believe that nuclear weapons are deadly only if they are used. The fact that they exist at all, their very presence in our lives, will wreak more havoc than we can begin to fathom. Nuclear weapons pervade our thinking. Control our behaviour. Administer our societies. Inform our dreams. They bury themselves like meathooks deep in the base of our brains… The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that man has ever made. Through it, man now has the power to destroy God’s creation.”

This needs to change. And it won’t be changed by those in power who benefit from the status quo. Humanity itself must awaken from the propaganda cages which have been built around our minds so that the people can use the power of their numbers to force a change. The time to wake up is now.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission from CaitlinJohnstone.com




The Ugly View of Western Democracy

From flimsy false flags in the Gulf to the signing of Assange’s extradition warrant, Craig Murray reviews the abuses of power made  obvious in the past two weeks. 

By Craig Murray
CraigMurray.org.uk

Standing back a little and surveying the events of the last couple of weeks, gives a bleak view of the current state of Western democracy.

We have seen what appears to be the most unconvincing of false flags in the Gulf. I pointed out why it was improbable Iran would attack these particular ships. Since then we have had American military sources pointing to video evidence of a packed small Iranian boat allegedly removing a limpet mine from the ship the Iranians helped to rescue, which was somehow supposed to prove it was the Iranians who planted the alleged device. We also have had the Japanese owner specifically contradict the American account and say that the ship was hit by flying objects.

The Iranians certainly have a strange method of bomb disposal if they carry it out using unarmoured personnel, with as many as possible crammed into a small boat in immediate contact with the “mine.” It is also hard to understand why the alleged “limpet mines” would be four feet above the waterline.

Limpet mines are placed below the waterline. There are numerous reasons for this. Firstly, holes above the waterline will not sink a ship. Secondly, the weight of the water helps contain the blast against the ship. Thirdly, it is obviously harder to detect both the diver placing the mine and the mine once placed if it is below the water. In fact it would be very difficult for a diver to place a limpet mine four feet above the waterline, even if they wanted to.

There seems to be a remarkable disconnect between the widespread popular disdain at yet another fake western power casus belli in the Middle East, and the near universal complicity of the U.K. political and media class in promoting this transparent lie. It is as though even pretending to have any respect for truth and fact has simply been discarded within the U.K.’s governmental system. Which ought to worry us a lot.

US Versus Corbyn

The second development ought to have been the biggest media story of the decade in the UK, if we had anything like a free and honest media. Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, made plain the Trump administration’s intent to prevent the election of Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister. Pompeo told a meeting of Jewish leaders:

“It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gantlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back.”

This blatant interference by a foreign power in the U.K.’s democracy is an absolute scandal. Compare the lack of media outrage at Pompeo’s intervention with the ludicrous claims made about much less high profile Russian attempts at influence. This incident provides incontrovertible proof that the world does indeed operate in the way that I have been explaining here for a decade. It is not a “conspiracy theory” that democracy is manipulated by hidden powers, it is fact. Pompeo’s description of Corbyn’s route to election as “running the gauntlet” is particularly revealing. Even more so is the cursory coverage this story was given, and I have seen no evidence to date of any MSM “journalist” attempting any follow-up investigation on the methods the U.S. are planning to employ – or more likely already employing – against Corbyn.

Everybody should be incandescent at this, no matter who they vote for.

Stunning Revelation About the Guardian 

Something else which revealed the truth of the way the political world now operates, and which again did not get nearly the media attention it deserves, was Matt Kennard’s stunning revelation of the way The Guardian has been taken over by the security services. I have been explaining for years that The Guardian has become the security services’ news outlet of choice, and it is very helpful to have documentation to prove it. 

It is worth noting that The Guardian obeyed completely the DSMA committee ban on mentioning Pablo Miller in reporting the security service fantasy version of the Skripal story. As Kennard points out, it is also very interesting indeed that the Guardian published Luke Harding’s front page fabrication of Manafort/Assange meetings two weeks after MOD Director Dominic Wilson congratulated Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson on “re-establishing links” with the security services. The Guardian is, like other British newspapers, as controlled by the military and security services just like in any other decent autocracy.

Incidentally, I cannot find Matt Kennard’s excellent work set out anywhere, except in that twitter stream. Surely there is an article on a website somewhere? I cannot find anything on Google, but as it is exactly the kind of information Google routinely suppresses, that does not mean it is not out there. Anyone seen it?

Assange’s Extradition Warrant

Finally, we have of course seen Home Secretary Sajid Javid sign the extradition warrant for Julian Assange to be sent to the United States for the “crime” of publishing truthful information about U.S. illegalities. Julian’s extradition hearing was, contrary to normal practice, held despite the fact he was too sick to attend in person. And it was presided over by Judge Emma Arbuthnot, despite the fact that her husband is a former Tory defense minister who started a “security consultancy” in partnership with a former head of MI6, the war criminal John Scarlett who oversaw the fabrication of the dossier of lies about Iraqi WMD, in order to launch an illegal war of aggression that killed and maimed millions. The Assange team had asked her to recuse herself on that pretty obvious basis, but she had refused. At an earlier hearing she taunted Assange with the observation that he could get adequate exercise in the embassy on a 1.5 meter Juliet balcony.

Just as The Guardian has never apologised for, nor withdrawn, the utter lie of the Assange/Manafort story, so the identity-politics-promoting, false “left” has never apologised for its pursuit of Assange over sexual allegations in Sweden, which were obvious on the slightest scrutiny to be only a fit-up designed to get him into custody. Those figures like David Allen Green, Joan Smith and David Aaronovitch, among scores of other pustulous hacks, who mocked and scorned those of us who always said that Assange faced not extradition to Sweden but to the United States for publishing, have been shown up as, at the very best, stupid naive and unwitting tools of the state, and more likely, insincere and vicious propagandists. 

This brief review of current issues reveal that not only do Western governments lie and fake, they have really given up on trying to pretend that they do not. The abuse of power is naked and the propaganda is revealed by the lightest effort to brush away the veneer of democracy. 

I find it hard to believe that I live in times where Assange suffers as he does for telling the truth, where a dedicated anti-racist like Corbyn is subjected to daily false accusations of racism and to U.S. and security service backed efforts to thwart his democratic prospects, where the most laughable false flag is paraded to move us towards war with Iran, and where there is no semblance of a genuinely independent media. But, starkly, that is where we are. This is not unrelated to the massive and fast-growing inequality of wealth; the erosion of freedom is the necessary precondition that allows the ultra-wealthy to loot the rest of us. It remains my hope there will eventually come a public reaction against the political classes as strong as the situation demands.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. This article first appeared on his website.




John Pilger: The Global War on Assange, Journalism & Dissent

John Pilger talks about the persecution of the WikiLeaks publisher and the rapid crackdown on investigative journalism in a wide-ranging interview with Dennis J. Bernstein and Randy Credico.

By Dennis J Bernstein and Randy Credico
KPFA Flashpoints 

The muckraking work of Oscar- and Emmy-award-winning filmmaker John Pilger is revered and celebrated by journalists and publishers all over the world. While still in his twenties, Pilger became the youngest journalist to receive Britain’s highest award for journalism, “Journalist of the Year,” and was the first to win it twice. Moving to the United States, he reported on the upheavals there in the late 1960s and 1970s. Pilger was in the same room when Robert Kennedy, the presidential candidate, was assassinated in June 1968.

His reporting in South East Asia and his subsequent documentary, Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,” raised almost $50 million for the people of that stricken country. Similarly, his 1994 documentary and dispatches report from East Timor, where he travelled under cover, helped galvanize support for the East Timorese, then occupied by Indonesia. In Britain, his four-year investigation on behalf of a group of children damaged at birth by the drug Thalidomide, and left out of the settlement with the drugs company, resulted in a special settlement. In 2009, he was awarded Australia’s human rights prize, the Sydney Peace Prize. He has received honorary doctorates from universities in the U.K. and abroad. In 2017, the British Library announced a John Pilger Archive of all his written and filmed work.

In this interview with Dennis J. Bernstein and Randy Credico, Pilger talks about what is happening to his friend and colleague Julian Assange, founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, and how his persecution could be the beginning of the end of modern investigative reporting as we know it. Since Assange’s high-profile arrest and maximum-security imprisonment on a bail-jumping charge, journalists and whistleblowers have been pursued, arrested and have their documents and hard drives seized in the U.S., France, Great Britain and Australia.

Bernstein: Good to speak with you again, John.  Thanks for talking with us. What’s happening — not only with Julian Assange — but the future of journalism is extremely disturbing. Now we have seen high-profile raids of journalists in Australia, France, and here in the U.S. in San Francisco, where police put a reporter in handcuffs, while they searched his house and seized his hard drive. We know Julian Assange is in maximum security and Chelsea Manning is also locked down. These are terrible times for the open flow of information.

Pilger: Well, it’s happening all over the world now and certainly all over that part of the world that regards itself as the enlightened. We are seeing the victimization of whistleblowers and journalists who tell the truth. There is a global war on journalism. More than that, there’s a global war on dissent. The speed with which these events has happened is quite remarkable since April 11th when Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by police. Since then, police have moved against journalists in the United States, in Australia, spectacularly, in Latin America. It’s as if somebody has waved a green flag.

Credico: I was thinking by now that Assange would be out. Didn’t you think at this point that he would be out of the dire situation that he was in when I last saw him two years ago?

Pilger: I’m reluctant to be a futurist. I did think a political deal might have been done. Now looking back, that was naive in the extreme because the very opposite was planned for Julian Assange. There is an “Assange Precedent” at work all over the world. In Australia there was a raid on the public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where the federal police marched in with warrants, one of which gave them the authority to delete, change and appropriate the material of journalists. It was one of the most blatant attacks on journalistic freedom and indeed on freedom of speech that I can remember. We saw even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation attacked.

The political editor of one of Murdoch’s papers, The Sunday Telegraph, watched as her house was ransacked and her personal belongings, intimate belongings, rifled. She had reported on the extent of official spying on Australians by the Australian government. Something similar has happened in France where [President Emmanuel] Macron’s police have moved against journalists on the magazine, Disclose.

Assange predicted this while he was being smeared and abused. He was saying that the world was changing and that so-called liberal democracies were becoming autocracies. A democracy that sends its police against journalists and carries away their notes and hard drives simply because those journalists have revealed what governments have not wanted people to know is not a democracy.

CredicoYou know, John, some of the mainstream media here in the U.S. and I guess in the U.K., now that their ox is possibly being gored, have suddenly come out in defense of Assange particularly on the use of the Espionage Act and the gathering of information. I don’t want to denounce them for waiting so long but why did they wait so long and what kind of help can they offer at this point and what should they do since they are in the crosshairs, as well?

Pilger: Let’s look at who is actually in the crosshairs. WikiLeaks co-published the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs in 2010, in collaboration with a range of media organizations: Der Spiegel in Germany, The New York Times, the Guardian and Espresso. The co-publishers of the Iraq material were also Al Jazeera, Le Monde, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, Channel 4’s “Dispatches” in London, the Iraq Body Count project in the U.K., RUV (Iceland), SVT (Sweden) and so it goes on.

There’s a list of individual journalists who reported this and worked with Assange. They echoed his work; they were collaborators in the literal sense. I’m looking at a list right now: On The New York Times there is Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt, Andrew W. Lehren, C. J. Chivers, Carlotta Gall, Jacob Harris, Alan McLean. On The Guardian there is Nick Davies, David Leigh, Declan Walsh, Simon Tisdall … and so it goes on. All these journalists are in the crosshairs. I don’t believe that many will find themselves in the dire straits in which Julian Assange finds himself because they don’t present a danger to the system that has reacted against Assange and Chelsea Manning; but they have, prima facie, committed the same “crime,” that is, publishing documents that the U.S. government did not want made public. In other words, they are as “guilty” as Assange of journalism.

That applies to hundreds of journalists if not thousands all over the world. The WikiLeaks disclosures were, if not co-published, were picked up by newspapers and journals and investigative programs on television all over the world. That makes all the journalists involved, all the producers, all the presenters, all of them complicit. And, of course, the hounding of Assange and the intimidation of others make a mockery of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that you have every right to publish; you have every right to “publish and be damned.” It’s one of the demonstrably noble principles of the U.S. Constitution that has been thrown away completely. And what’s ironic is that the journalists who looked down on Assange, even maintained he was not a journalist, are now running for cover because not only is he a journalist of the highest order he is a far more conscientious journalist than most of them. He — and they in his shadow — were doing a basic job of journalism. That’s why I call it a global war on journalism and the precedent of Julian Assange is unlike anything we have seen.

Bernstein: John I want to sort of pick up where you left off with Randy and I want to unpack more and deepen peoples’ understanding of exactly who Julian Assange is and the, if you will, the beat that he chose for his work. How would you describe Julian Assange’s beat and the people he chose to work with?

Pilger: When I first met Julian Assange, I asked him, “What’s WikiLeaks all about, what are you doing here?” He described very clearly the principle of transparency. In fact, he was describing the principle of free speech: that we have a right to know. We have a right to know what our governments are doing in our name. He wasn’t saying that there is a right to endanger people. He was saying that in the normal business of liberal democracies, we have a right to know what our governments are doing for us, at times conspiring against us, in our name. We have the right to know the truth that they tell in private which are so often translated into untruths in public. That transparency, he said, was a moral principle.  That is the “why” of WikiLeaks. He believes it passionately and, of course, that should strike a chord with every authentic journalist, because that’s what we all should believe.

What the Assange case has shown us is that this war on journalism, this war on dissent, has yet to enter the political bloodstream. None of the candidates now running for the presidency of the United States has mentioned it. None of the Democrats have uttered it. We don’t expect the Trump gang to talk about principles like this but there is some naive hope that maybe some of the Democrats might. None of them has.

Bernstein: [What does it say when] Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning; a publisher and one of the most significant military whistleblowers of our time, are in jail and locked down?

PilgerThey want to get their hands on Julian Assange because he protected his source and they want to get their hands on Chelsea Manning because she, being the source, has refused to lie about Julian Assange. She’s refused to implicate him. She’s refuses to say there is a conspiracy between them. These two exemplify the very best of truth telling in the modern era. We’ve been bereft of the likes of Assange and Chelsea Manning.

Yes, there’s been some fine investigative reporting and disclosures but we have to reach back to the caliber of Daniel Ellsberg to appreciate what Chelsea and Julian, these two heroic figures, what they’ve given us and why they’re being persecuted. 

If we allow their persecution, so much is lost. The intimidation and suppression will work on all our lives. In the media that once abused Assange, I detect fear. You read some of these editorials by those who once attacked Julian Assange and smeared him, such as in The Guardian, and you see their fear that they may be next. You read famous columnists like Katie Benner in The New York Times, who attacked Assange and now sees a threat from his tormentors to all journalists. The same is true of David Corn [at Mother Jones] who now sees a threat to all of journalism. They are justified in being frightened.

CredicoWhat was the fear of Assange? That he would have continued to work on new avenues of exposure? Why are they so afraid of Assange?

PilgerWell, I think they were worried – are worried – that among the 2 million people in the U.S. who have a national security clearance are those whom Assange has called “conscientious objectors.”  I once asked him to characterize the people who were using WikiLeaks to release important information. He likened them to the conscientious objectors in wartime, people of principle and peace, and I think that’s quite an apt description. The authorities are worried that there are quite a few Chelseas out there. Perhaps not quite as brave or as bold as Chelsea, but who may start releasing information that undermines the whole war-making system.

CredicoYeah I spoke to Julian about this about a year and a half ago when I was in London, about trying to make a comparison to mid-19th century Antebellum South and journalists like Elijah Lovejoy and David Walker who were murdered for exposing the brutality and destinism of slavery and I said, “You know, we gotta’ start packaging you in that kind of light,” and he’s says, “You know, there’s a big difference, Randy.” He said that, “See those guys only had one, one side to deal with, that’s it; the people in the South and some of the collaborators in New York that were part of the cotton shipping business. But the rest of the North pretty much was on the side of the abolitionists. I exposed the war crimes and got the conservatives upset with me. And then I exposed misbehavior, malfeasance by the Democratic Party. So, I target everybody, I don’t exempt anybody so it doesn’t apply to me.”

And that’s what’s happened here. [You see it in the small size of the protests on his behalf.] I was at a demonstration the other day, a small little protest for Assange in front of the British embassy,  and only half a dozen people were there, a few more the previous week. He’s not generating that kind of interest thus far. And you had people walking by saying, “Assange is a traitor.” I mean, they are so disinformed and I want to go to this quote that you quoted, Vandana Shiva, in your book “Freedom Next Time,” she talked about the “insurrection of subjugated knowledge,” can you talk about that?

PilgerVandana Shiva is the great Indian environmentalist and political activist whose books on the threat of monoculture are landmarks, especially the threat of the multinational agri-power companies that impose themselves on vulnerable, rural societies like India. She described an “insurrection of subjugated knowledge.” It is a fine truism. I have long believed that the truth resides in a metaphorically subterranean world and above that is all the noise: the noise of the accredited politicians, the noise of the accredited media, those who appear to be speaking for those below. Now and then, truth tellers emerge from below. Take the Australian war correspondent, Wilfred Burchett, who was the first to reach Hiroshima after the atomic bombing. His report appeared on the front of his newspaper The Daily Express in London, which said, “I write this as a warning to the world.”  He was warning about nuclear weapons. Everything was thrown at Burchett to smear and discredit him. The New York Times correspondent was leading this: the same New York Times correspondent who denied that people were suffering effects of radioactivity: that people had died only from the blast. He was later found to be in bed with the U.S. authorities. Wilfred Burchett suffered smears over most of his career. As all whistleblowers do — those who are affronted by the indecency of something they discovered perhaps in a corporation they work for, or within a government — they believe that the public has a right to know the truth.

The Guardian, which turned on Julian Assange with such viciousness having been one of WikiLeaks’ media partners, back in the ‘80s published the disclosures of a Foreign Office official who had sent them the plans of the U.S. to install medium-range Cruise missiles throughout Europe. The Guardian published this and was duly praised as a paper of disclosure and principle. But when the government went to the courts and a judge demanded the paper hand over the documents that would reveal who the whistleblower was — instead of the editor doing as editors are meant to do, standing up for principle and saying, “No, I will not reveal my source” — the paper betrayed its source. Her name is Sarah Tisdall and she went to prison as a result. So, whistleblowers have to be extraordinarily brave, heroic people. When you look at the likes of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, it’s as if the full force of the American national security state backed by its so-called allies has been imposed on them. Julian represents an example that they must make because if they don’t make an example of Julian Assange, journalists might even be encouraged to do their job and that job means telling the public what they have a right to know.

CredicoVery well said. In your preface or introduction in your book, “Freedom Next Time,” you also quote Harold Pinter and his Nobel Prize speech in which he talked about the vast tapestry of lies that we feed on and he goes on and says that American crimes were superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged. This is something that Julian Assange has broken out of that mode, big time, and he has exposed war crimes by the U.S. and whatever kind of shenanigans the State Department has perpetrated. You talk about Harold Pinter, what a great influence he’s been.

PilgerYes, I recommend to your listeners Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, I believe it was 2005. It was a superb and eloquent testament of how and why the truth should be told and why we should no longer tolerate political double standards.

Harold Pinter was comparing our view of the Soviet Union and of Stalin’s crimes with America’s crimes; he was saying the main difference was that we know about the scale of Stalin’s crimes and know little about Washington’s. He was saying that the vast silence that enveloped our crimes — when I say, “our crimes,” I mean those of the United State — meant, as he said, memorably, “These crimes didn’t happen, they didn’t even happen when they were happening, they were of no interest, they didn’t matter.”

We have to rid ourselves of these double standards, surely. We have just had a unctuous celebration of June the 6th, D-Day. That was an extraordinary invasion in which many soldiers took part and laid down their lives but it didn’t win the war. The Soviet Union actually won the war but the Russians weren’t even represented, weren’t even invited or spoken of. It didn’t happen, as Pinter would say. It didn’t matter. But Donald Trump was there, lecturing the world on war and peace. It is truly gruesome satire.  This silence, these omissions, run right across our newspaper — right across the BB — as if it’s even a semblance of the truth, and it’s not. 

Bernstein: I want to pick it up with Wilfred Burchett and the implications, and the enormous responsibility that these big-time journalists have for allowing terrible things to go on unnoticed, based on issues of patriotism and claims of national security. I’m thinking, they had to shut down Willfred Burchett because that could have opened the whole door about how dangerous nuclear weapons and nuclear power is, exploding the myth of the peaceful atom.

Pilger:  That’s very true, Dennis, and it also undermined the moral plans of the “Good War,” the Second World War which ended with these two great crimes — the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after Japan posed no threat. Credible historians now don’t tell us the fairytales that these atomic bombs were needed to end the war. So, it’s destroyed in many respects the great moral mission of the war. 

It not only did that, it declared, the atomic bombing, that a new war was beginning, a “Cold War,” although it could very well have turned very quickly into a “hot war” with the Soviet Union. And it was saying “we”— that is the United States and its allies like Britain — had nuclear weapons and we’re prepared to use them. That’s the key: We’re prepared to use them. And the United States is the only country that has ever used them against another country.

Of course it then went on to test them throughout the United Nations’ Trust territory, which was meant to be held in trust by the United Nations in the Marshall Islands, setting off many Hiroshimas over a period of 12 years. We didn’t know anything about that at the time. And how much do we know about the development of nuclear warheads that President Obama got underway and committed something like a trillion dollars that President Trump has certainly carried on.  

And those treaties that offered some fragile defense against a nuclear holocaust, treaties with the Soviet Union such as the intermediate-range weapons treaty torn up by this administration. One thing leads to another. This is truth telling.

Bernstein: I want to come back to remind people of the kind of structure that Julian Assange created at WikiLeaks to protect whistleblowers. This is crucial because we’ve seen now other journalists being a little more careless and we see sources being tracked down, arrested, and facing major jail time. And I think this is the way that Julian Assange honored whistleblowers by protecting them is a crucial part of who he is and what he did.

PilgerHe invented a system whereby it was impossible to tell who the source was and it allowed people to use a letterbox drop to leak material without their identity being disclosed. The WikiLeaks system gives them that protection. It’s probably that that has so enraged those who are pursuing him. It means that people of conscience within governments, within systems, who are troubled like Chelsea Manning who was deeply troubled by what she saw, have the opportunity to tell the world without fearing that their identity will be exposed. Unfortunately, Chelsea revealed her identity to somebody who betrayed her. It is an unprecedented means of getting the truth out.  

Bernstein: John, please tell us about your recent visit with Assange at Belmarsh maximum security prison in Great Britain. How is he holding up?

Pilger:  I would like to say one thing about Julian personally. I saw Julian in Belmarsh prison and I got a vivid sense of what he has had to endure. I saw the resilience and courage that I’ve known for many years; but now he is unwell. The pressure on him is unimaginable; most of us would have bent beneath it.  So, there is an issue here of justice for this man and what he has had to take; not only the lies that were told about him in the embassy and the lies that sought a full-scale character assassination of him. The so-called respectable media from The New York Times to The Guardian, all of them have reached into the mud and thrown it at him; and today he is a very vulnerable, and I would say to your listeners:  He needs your support and solidarity. More than that, he deserves it.

Bernstein: Say a little more about the conditions there and why it’s so significant that they would treat him to a year in this kind of prison.

Pilger:  Well, I suppose because of what a threat he is. Even with Julian locked away, WikiLeaks carries on. This is a maximum-security prison. Anyone in for just bail infringement — first of all, they wouldn’t have been sentenced to 50 weeks as he was. They might have been given a fine and at best a month but of course this has now morphed into an extradition, a case with all these ludicrous charges coming from the indictment in Virginia. But Julian, as a person, what’s always struck me he’s the diametric opposite portrayed by so many of his detractors. He has a sharp intellect so he’s clever, of course. He’s also gracious and he’s very funny. He and I often laugh. We even managed to laugh the last time I saw him at the embassy when there were cameras all over the room, you could tell as we swapped notes and we had to cover up what we were actually writing on the pad. He managed to laugh about this. So, there’s a dry, almost black humor and he’s a very passionate person but his resilience has always astonished me. I’ve tried to put myself in his position and I couldn’t imagine it. And when I saw him in prison and we had to sit across from each other, I was with a couple of other people, when one of us went around the table just to be close to him she was told to go back by one of the guards. This is what somebody who has committed no crime, yes, he’s committed the crime of journalism, and this is what he has to endure.

Listen to the interview.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.” You can access the audio archives at Flashpoint.  You can get in touch with the author at dbernstein@igc.org.

Randy Credico is an American perennial political candidate, comedian, radio host, activist and the former director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice.




US Media Spreads False Claims About Purging of North Korean Official

The episode exposes non-existent editorial standards on official enemies, writes Ben Norton.

By Ben Norton
Grayzone

The corporate media’s editorial standards for reporting on official enemies of the U.S., especially North Korea, are as low as ever. Blatantly false stories are regularly circulated by leading news outlets without any kind of accountability.

In the latest example, virtually every major media outlet reported that a senior North Korean official named Kim Yong-chol was supposedly forced into a “labor camp,” as part of a larger deadly “purge.”

Two days later, that same official turned up alive at a public art performance, seated next to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Bloomberg kicked off the frenzy on May 30 by publishing a report claiming, “North Korea executed its former top nuclear envoy to the U.S. and four other foreign ministry officials in March after a failed summit between Kim and Donald Trump.”

Bloomberg’s source was South Korea’s far-right newspaper Chosun Ilbo, which has a long history of fabricating stories about North Korea. Chosen Ilbo’s story was based on a single unidentified source.

That is to say, the false report obediently echoed by the Western press corps was based entirely on the claims of one unnamed person.

This obvious lack of evidence did not stop credulous reporters from jumping on the sensationalist propaganda. The story was circulated by The New York TimesReutersThe Wall Street JournalThe Hill, The Daily BeastFox News, CNBCTIME, ABC News, The Financial TimesThe TelegraphVICE NewsRolling StoneThe Independent, The Washington Times, The New York Post, HuffPostFrance 24The Japan Times, HaaretzThe Times of IsraelDemocracy Now, the U.S. government’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and many more.

Twitter even went out of its way to create a shareable Moment based on the false report.

Careful readers (only a small percentage of total readers) might have noticed that Bloomberg quietly admitted in its original report, “Previous South Korean media reports about senior North Korean officials being executed following the talks have proven false.” But this concession didn’t stop the rest of the corporate media from running with the story.

On June 2, the commentariat’s favorite fable fell apart: North Korea’s nuclear negotiator Kim Yong-chol showed up on state media, sitting a few seats away from Kim Jong-un at a musical performance.

The Associated PressReuters, The New York Times, and CNN quickly published new reports making light of the news  — but none of these contained mea culpas or official retractions.

As of June 3, the vast majority of blatantly false reports published in dozens of outlets remain uncorrected.

Grayzone has documented the long history of U.S. corporate media printing cartoonish lies about North Korea (officially known as the DPRK), especially in the form of execution stories that are quickly debunked. (The New York Times once even cited an obvious parody Twitter account as if it were the DPRK’s real state media.)

A few actual experts on Korea did raise concerns about the latest hoax. Among them was veteran reporter Tim Shorrock, who has spent decades reporting on Korea, and who joined prominent peace activists Christine Ahn and Simone Chun in questioning the story.

Shorrock cautioned on May 31, “It’s important to keep tabs on this one, which if uncorroborated could turn out to be one of the biggest fiascos in journalism history.”

As usual, Shorrock was right — but he was an outlier whose critical thinking was drowned out by a mob of mainstream pundits.

Below is a list of some of the top journalists in the U.S. corporate media and political class, including ostensible “progressives,” who spread this blatantly false story. Many of these self-styled progressives promoted the hoax in hopes of embarrassing Presdient Donald Trump for embarking on a historic peace process with the DPRK.

Journalists and Activists Who Spread the Story

-Chris Hayes, a media celebrity and MSNBC host who used the fake news to get in a cheap joke about Trump

-Julia Ioffe, a prominent journalist, GQ Magazine correspondent, and so-called Russia expert

-Yashar Ali, a contributor to New York Magazine and The Huffington Post and liberal mini-celebrity

-Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times and an analyst for MSNBC

-Jon Cooper, the chairman of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, which proudly boasts, “We help run #TheResistance”

-Katie Phang, a legal contributor for NBC and MSNBC

-David Roberts, a reporter for Vox

-Caroline Orr, a neoliberal “Resistance” influencer who rose to prominence by pumping up the Russia-gate narrative

-Oz Katerji, a rabid pro-military intervention regime-change activist dedicated to harassing anti-imperialists online

-Josh Smith, a Reuters senior correspondent covering North and South Korea

-Vivian Salama, a White House reporter for The Wall Street Journal, who previously worked as AP’s Baghdad bureau chief

-Matt Bevan, the host and writer of ABC News Australia’s Russia, If You’re Listening podcast

-Kaitlan Collins, a CNN White House reporter

-Geoff Bennett, a White House correspondent for NBC News

-Andrew Desiderio, a political reporter at Politico

-David Nakamura, a Washington Post reporter

-Amy Siskind, a prominent liberal anti-Trump activist and former Wall Street executive

-Steve Silberman, longtime writer for Wired magazine

Rare Exceptions

There were a few exceptions to the norm. Some reporters who specialize on Korea did raise concerns, pointing out South Korean media outlets have a long history of publishing false stories about the DPRK.

These warnings, however, were ignored.

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

This article is from Grayzone.




US Executive Power and the ‘State of Exception’

After decades of global integration, Dan Steinbock sees imperial presidential policies based on “national security interests” producing majestic mistakes.

How Carl Schmitt Took Over the White House

By Dan Steinbock
Special to Consortium News            

As the controversial German jurist Carl Schmitt saw it in the interwar Third Reich, legal order ultimately rests upon the decisions of the sovereign, who alone can meet the needs of an “exceptional” time, transcending the law so that order can then be reestablished. “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” he wrote. “All law is situational law.”

In post-Weimar Germany, such ideas contributed to the eclipse of liberal democracy. Following Sept. 11, 2001, similar arguments renewed neoconservative interest in Schmitt and the “state of exception.” In this world the status quo is in a permanent state of exception, as enemies — “adversaries, others and strangers” — will unite “us” against “them.”

In this view, the U.S. response to 9/11 was not unusual because liberal wars are “exceptional.” Rather, it was a manifestation of ever-more violent types of war within the very attempt to fight wars that would end “war” as such.

Similarly, it is politically expedient to legitimize a trade war and other political battles in the name of “national security,” which allows the sovereign to redefine a new order on the basis of a state of exception. Subsequently, a new national security strategy redefines “friends” as “enemies” and “us” as victims who are thus justified to seek justice from our “adversaries” — “them.”

The logic of the state of exception leaves open the question how the White House could establish such a trade war as a sovereign, when such trade wars have not been supported by most of President Donald Trump’s constituencies and have been opposed by much of the Congress and by most Americans.

Unitary Executive Theory

What looms behind the Schmittian White House is a tradition of conservative thought relying on the unitary executive theory in American constitutional law, which deems that the president possesses the power to control the entire executive branch.

The first administration to make explicit reference to the “unitary executive” was the Reagan administration. Typically, the practice has evolved since the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon decoupled the U.S. dollar from the Bretton Woods gold standard and trade deficits began to rise.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 allowed the George W. Bush administration to make the unitary executive theory a common feature of signing statements, particularly in the execution of national-security decisions, which divided Capitol Hill and were opposed by most Americans.

In the case of Trump, the need for inflated unitary executive power arose with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which restricted the president’s strategic maneuverability to operate with the Republican Congress in 2017-18 but permitted actions that required only executive power, typically in tax and trade policy.

In this view, efforts at a U.S.-Sino trade compromise may prove more challenging than anticipated, as evidenced by the extended truce talks. Even a trade compromise may prove unlikely to deter subsequent bilateral technology wars, which have been heralded by U.S. actions in the case of Huawei and longstanding efforts to sustain American primacy in 5G technologies. As U.S. production capacity has been offshored since the 1980s, such efforts rely on national security considerations.

If the trade war is less about trade than about a U.S. effort at economic and strategic primacy, no “concession” may prove enough for the Trump White House, which may be more likely to re-define the status quo on the basis of a national emergency.

‘Costly, Mysterious Wars’

The idea of the “imperial presidency” in America is hardly new, as historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. demonstrated in the Nixon era:

“The weight of messianic globalism was indeed proving too much for the American Constitution .… In fact, the policy of indiscriminate global intervention, far from strengthening American security, seemed rather to weaken it by involving the United States in remote, costly and mysterious wars.”

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Ostensibly moderate administrations, including that of President Barack Obama, have conformed to this rule. During Obama’s first term in office, America expanded its military presence in Afghanistan and increased drone missile strikes across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The administration also deployed the military to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean, engaged in a sustained bombing operation in Libya, and deployed U.S. Special Forces in Central Africa. In these cases, Obama decided to use force without congressional approval.

During the past half century, amid a series of asset bubbles, a slate of new foreign interventions, the Iraq War debacle and the $22 trillion U.S. sovereign debt, the imperial presidency has become a target of broader criticism. But why has it grown even harder to challenge?

Certainly, one critical force has been campaign finance and the increasing role of “big money” in American politics. In particular, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down a federal prohibition on independent corporate campaign expenditures, paved the way for corporate power to override democratic power in the White House.

At the same time, the ultra-rich have begun to play a more active part in politics, with serious consequences for American democracy, as many American political scientists have warned.

In the new status quo, neither 20th century American Empire nor 21stcentury Third Reich is needed for majestic policy mistakes. Imperial Presidency will do. Indeed, even the sovereign’s executive power may suffice.

Emergency Powers in Time of Peace

The uses of executive power are likely to go far beyond the current rivalry  for artificial intelligence (AI), as evidenced by Trump’s efforts to re-define, re-negotiate or reject major U.S. trade deals on the basis of national security. By the same token, foreign investment reviews will be overshadowed by national security considerations.

As postwar multilateralism has been replaced with unilateralism, the White House sees itself in international strategic competition with other great powers, particularly Russia and China, yet old allies – including Europe and Japan – are not excluded.

Since the U.S. Constitution ensures the president a relatively broad scope of emergency powers that may be exercised in the event of crisis, exigency or emergency circumstances (other than natural disasters, war, or near-war situations), it matters how the White House chooses to apply its definition of a “state of exception.”

Under the current, wide definition, it is prudent to expect escalated international trade disputes between the U.S. and other members of the World Trade Organization, even against the WTO itself. Citing diffuse national security reasons, the White House defends its tariffs under the GATT Article XXI; the so-called national security exception.

There is a big difference between the repercussions of such executive decisions in the postwar era and the early 21stcentury. In the past, policy mistakes could penalize the U.S. economy and democracy. After half a century of increasing global interdependency, they can derail global economic prospects.

Dr. Dan Steinbock is the founder and director of Difference Group and has served at the India, China and America Institute (U.S.), Shanghai Institute for International Studies (China) and the EU Center (Singapore). For more, visit the Difference Group

This commentary draws in part from his new analysis, “U.S.-Sino Futures,” released by Chinese Quarterly of International Studies (CQISS).

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First-Hand Account of Protecting the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington

Kevin Zeese, co-founder of the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective, described the situation inside the embassy on Wednesday. 

‘Focused on Sovereignty and Peace’

By Dennis J. Bernstein
Special to Consortium News

On May 1, I conducted this phone interview with Kevin Zeese, co-director of Popular Resistance, and co-founder of the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective, about the occupation of the embassy.

Dennis Bernstein: Where exactly are you now Kevin Zeese?

Kevin Zeese:  I’m talking to you from the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C., as part of the Embassy Protection Collective, a group of organizations and individuals who are standing in solidarity with the Venezuelan people to protect their embassy from takeover by the Trump administration and the state government they have picked for Venezuela, which just had a failed coup yesterday.  I am co-director of Popular Resistance.org, which grew out of the Occupy movement and is a daily movement and organizing site which carries on the issues which were raised by the Occupy movement.  We are one of the initiators of this collective at the embassy, along with Code Pink, the Answer Coalition, Black Alliance for Peace, and other organizations.

Dennis Bernstein: Tell us exactly what you are doing there in the embassy and what people in Washington, D.C., are trying to do in the context of what appears to be a U.S.-supported coup and advanced destabilization.

Kevin Zeese:  We have upwards of 50 people living here every night.  We began on April 10 and it is ongoing.  We work here, we sleep here, we cook here. This has become our home and we see ourselves as tenants of the Venezuelan government.  We live here with the permission of the elected Venezuelan government.  There was no unlawful entry, there is no trespass.  We see ourselves as interim protectors because the U.S. embassy in Caracas is vacant and the U.S. wants to have Switzerland serve as a protectorate for that embassy.  Venezuela is negotiating with other countries to be a protectorate for this embassy. We are hoping that the two countries will mutually agree to having protectorates and that way both embassies will remain sovereign.  Once that is negotiated, we hope that will begin an ongoing dialogue that can resolve a lot of the disputes between the U.S. and Venezuela.

I know that Venezuela wants to have a good relationship with the United States and does not see the United States as an enemy.  They want peace, but they will protect their sovereignty and independence and they are prepared to do so with their military as well as their civilian militia.  We hope to avoid such a conflict and use this embassy dispute as a way to open up diplomatic relations and end the economic attack as well as the threats of military force.

Dennis Bernstein: What confirms this to be a coup, an overthrow of the government there?

Kevin Zeese:  There is no question that this is a coup.  This was discussed by the OAS [Organization of American States] in January and February by the U.S. and its allies.  They picked [National Assembly President Juan] Guaidó to be their puppet president, someone who had never run for presidency and had come from the second smallest state with 24 percent of the vote, which was enough to get into the national legislature.  By appointing himself interim president he violated the Venezuelan constitution in a multitude of ways. 

The coup tried yesterday to conduct a takeover of the country and failed miserably. Guaidó — along with the leader of the opposition, Leopoldo Lopez, who has been convicted of inciting violence that killed more than 140 people — fled and are hiding in the Spanish embassy.  So our understanding of the reality of the coup is not just that it was discussed at the OAS but also that the night before the coup [Vice President] Michael Pence called Guaidó and said that he has the full support of the U.S. government.  As soon as he was self-appointed, Trump called him and recognized him and got the right-wing Lima Group countries to go along with that as well as many Western European countries.  One hundred and fifty nations have not recognized Guaidó, neither has the United Nations.  The OAS, which has always been under the thumb of the United States, had to change its rules because they could not get the two-thirds vote required to recognize Guaidó, and then they barely got the majority. That has resulted in the OAS ambassadors from Venezuela leaving.  The Caracas embassy has been used as a place for organizing opposition for many years. They worked very hard to undermine the 2018 reelection of President [Nicolás] Maduro.  There were more than 150 election observers from around the world and they unanimously found that the election met international standards and was free of fraud. 

Dennis Bernstein: Meanwhile we have the Trump administration trying to install part of the coup leadership that apparently failed in a coup attempt yesterday.  It was an amazing day for U.S. intelligence when they were talking about this plane, all the leaders agreed to go and something had to be done.  It was right out of the textbook of CIA destabilization and overthrow.  It is a throwback but is extremely disturbing.  What are those who support the government saying to you inside the embassy?  Are they willing to fight all the way?

Kevin Zeese: If you go to our website, you can read the declaration of our collective, which lays out how Maduro was reelected legitimately, how the Vienna Convention requires the U.S. government to protect the embassy and not turn it over to a fake government, and how Guide’s election violated the Venezuelan constitution.                                                                                                                                        

Of course, there are many people from Venezuela here who take a very different position.  Maduro’s supporters are for the most part in Venezuela, which is why they keep winning elections and defeating these coups.  The people who fled Venezuela, the business people and government people from the pre-Chavez era, are forming a violent mob outside the embassy.  Yesterday they were abusing us with sound cannons and racist slurs.  Today an opposition person snuck into the basement, got to the third floor and locked himself in a room and we had to negotiate with the secret service to remove him.  Unfortunately, the secret service removed the police barriers and told us we were on our own.  So, we now feel that we are under siege.  But people are confident.  We know we are acting lawfully, that we are on the right side of history.  We are standing against a U.S. coup, a U.S. military threat, and with the Venezuelan people. 

Dennis Bernstein: [President Donald] Trump, [National Security Advisor John] Bolton and others at the top are calling for a coup.  They said they were ready to fly to Havana but, according to Bolton, that plan broke down at the last minute, they chickened out.

Kevin Zeese: John Bolton is a known liar.  He was convicted of lying to Congress.  He is a known war criminal who has been involved in genocide in Central America during the Iran/Contra era.  He was pardoned by [President] George H. W. Bush.  Everything he is saying about Venezuela is a lie.  I am sure that Maduro never planned to leave the country. Bolton made another false statement about us at the Atlantic Council when he said that we were here in violation of the law.  He said that we have been asked to leave, which is not true.  I have absolutely no doubt that there was never any plan by the Venezuelan government to leave the country.  I was in Venezuela a few weeks ago and we actually ended up meeting with President Maduro after American Airlines cancelled all flights out of the country on the false claim that there was widespread civil unrest, when there was none at all.  We went out and filmed the streets to show that there was no unrest.  But that day President Maduro asked to meet with us. We were there for 90 minutes and he talked about how he was willing to put his life on the line to protect Venezuela’s independence. 

Dennis Bernstein: Would you say a little bit more about the Embassy Protection Collective?

Kevin Zeese: We are a collection of organizations and individuals.  Our declaration has been signed by about 1,500 people and organizations. You can support us through Popular Resistance or through Code Pink or the Black Alliance for Peace. 

Dennis Bernstein: So just to be clear, you are saying that you and the folks in this collective feel under siege now.  The police have told you they would not protect you until after you are hurt or wounded.  There are a series of anti-government protests supported by the U.S. government outside the embassy. 

Kevin Zeese: We have agreed to withdraw inside the embassy while these rallies go on. 

Dennis Bernstein: By the way, what did you talk about all night?  I’m sure you didn’t sleep all that well.

Kevin Zeese: We discussed the day’s events and how we responded.  It was a very tense situation.  We reviewed what we had done and what we could do better.  We discussed what was expected the coming day. And we were able to get online through social media so that more people can get involved and support our actions. 

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.”  You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. You can get in touch with him at dbernstein@igc.org.




Democratic Triumph for Catalan Separatists

Given all they were up against, Craig Murray underscores the importance of their victory in Spain’s general election.

By Craig Murray
CraigMurray.org.uk

The Spanish general election in Catalonia was a stunning victory for the Catalan separatists, their best election result, achieved despite their leadership being exiled or political prisoners and despite an avalanche of mainstream media propaganda against them.

Four of those elected are currently in jail.

The Spanish state has reacted by declaring the two major separatist candidates — Clara Ponsati and Carles Puigdemont — ineligible for the European Parliament elections.

The Catalan Republican left won the biggest share of the vote, which negates the continued false propaganda being put about Catalonian independence being a right-wing movement. Over 60 percent of the vote in Catalonia went to avowedly left-wing parties.

It is further worth noting that there is a very plain correlation between the geographical location of the 3.6 percent of the vote that the neo-fascists of Vox gained in Catalonia, and the Spanish occupation garrisons in the country.

You will struggle very hard indeed to learn any of the above facts from British mainstream media; I had to get them all from Catalan sources.

The Guardian has published 55 articles in the last three years boosting Ines Arrimadas, the leader of the Catalan branch of the right wing “Spanish” Citizens party, including at least three op-eds written by Ines Arrimadas herself. The Guardian has sought relentlessly to portray public opinion in Catalonia as anti-independence, and Arrimadas as its true representative.

Yet in the Spanish general election, Arrimadas’ party got only 11.6 percent of the vote in Catalonia. The right-wing nationalist Spanish parties, the fascist Vox, the Francoist PP and Arrimadas’ foreign security service promoted Citizens, got a pathetic 20.1 percent of the vote among all three, in a stunning Catalan rejection of Spanish nationalism.

Citizens started life as an astroturf effort to help counter the left-wing and anti-EU populism of Podemos. To that end it was funded and assisted by the German foreign intelligence service, the BND. It remains a favorite tool of foreign intelligence services, particularly MI6 which of course sees the links between Catalan and Scottish nationalism. Hence the peculiarly active link between Ciudadanos and MI6’s print media mouthpiece, the Guardian.

It is impossible to correlate directly from party results to potential referendum results, as a number of parties including Podemos and the Greens hold ambivalent positions on independence, and a percentage of voters will have a view on independence that differs from the party they support. For example, a small but significant number of Socialist Party supporters of PM Pedro Sanchez, also support Catalan independence.

Given the thuggish violence of Francoist paramilitary forces against the ordinary voters in Catalonia’s referendum, given the imprisoning and exile of its peaceful leadership, given the extraordinary Madrid dictated barrage of MSM propaganda, the Catalan nationalist victory in the general election is a wonderful triumph for the human spirit. Now you won’t hear that in the MSM.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. This article first appeared on his website.




THE ANGRY ARAB: Deal of the Century? Which Century?

As’ad AbuKhalil explains why Palestinians will see through the latest U.S. illusion of a Middle East “peace process.”  

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

There is great speculation about the “Deal of the Century” for the Middle East, about which very little is known. What is known is that the Trump administration formulated the plan basically through bilateral talks with the Israeli government, as the Palestinian Authority has refused to talk to the Trump administration since the relocation of the U.S. embassy from occupied Jaffa (Tel Aviv) to occupied Jerusalem. 

The release of the plan has been delayed: first until after the Israeli election and now until sometime in the summer. None of the individuals tasked with formulating the plan have expertise in the Middle East, although in Washington, D.C., strong advocacy on behalf of the Israeli occupation often counts as a substitute.

This plan will be the latest attempt by a U.S. administration to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict — once and for all.  There was the Nixon administration’s famous Rogers’ Plan (named after Secretary of State William Rogers, who later resigned after complaining about National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger’s usurpation of his authority).

Before the Nixon administration, President John F. Kennedy also tried to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict only to be rebuffed by strong Zionist figures within the Democratic Party.

The origins of U.S. intervention were initially clear: that the U.S. would push for a deal based on UN Security Council Resolution  242, which calls on Israel to withdraw from “territories” it occupied in the 1967 war in return for Arab recognition and acceptance of the Israeli occupation state within the 1948 occupation. But Kissinger attached a secret appendix to the Sinai II agreement in 1975 (between Egypt and Israel) in which he pledged to boycott and ostracize the PLO, which all Arabs accepted as the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people.  This exclusion of Palestinian political representation was consistent with UNSC 242, which did not mention the word “Palestinian” once, although it made a passing reference to the “refugee problem.”

Zionist Influence

And while the management of the American-led “peace process” was, during the early decades, handled by Middle East experts (known then as “Arabists,”) strong Zionist influences in successive U.S. administrations and houses of Congress marginalized their influence and slowed down the progress of the “process” — in terms of U.S. pressure on Israel.

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But the American-led “peace process” lived on for decades, not as a testimony of U.S. interest in peace in the Middle East, nor as evidence of American interest in solving the Palestinian problem, but as a way to provide Israeli occupation and aggression with a cloak of international legitimacy and to give Palestinians the illusion of “progress.”

With the Reagan administration a change occurred in the management of the “peace process;” it was taken from the Arabists and given to ardent Zionists who had no background in the Middle East. (Dennis Ross, for example, never studied the Middle East and was in fact a Soviet expert in the 1980s, before he was put in charge of the “peace process.”)

The “peace process” underwent major transformations over the years, largely to accommodate Israeli needs and preferences.  The Rogers’ Plan started as a response to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s emphasis on a “comprehensive and just” peace, which clearly precluded separate deals between Israel and any Arab state. It was this which prevented King Hussein of Jordan from reaching a separate deal with Israel. 

Nevertheless, President Jimmy Carter brokered the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel (which basically committed the U.S. to provide the Egyptian despot, President Anwar Sadat and his successors, with an annual large bribe to maintain peace with Israel despite the disapproval of the Egyptian people).  With Camp David, the “peace process” was splintered into separate “peace” deals.

The U.S. official ban on contact with the PLO was removed in the Reagan administration when Yasser Arafat agreed to read a statement faxed to him — word-for-word — by the U.S. Department of State.  The PLO was allowed into the “peace process” but only on conditions set by Israel: that the agenda would be set by U.S. and Israel and not by any Arab party. 

Initially, the U.S. worked for decades to sidestep PLO participation by anointing the Jordanian king (who is remembered by the Palestinians for the massacres of Black September in 1970) as the representative of both Jordan and the Palestinian people. But the Intifada in 1987 finally convinced the U.S. that the Palestinians are determined to insist on their self-determination.  And during the George W. Bush administration the idea of a Palestinian state was finally formally advocated by the U.S. but only within boundaries set by Israel.

No Mystery 

The new “Deal of the Century” is not a mystery.  We can read the writing on the wall and on the ground in Palestine.  The U.S. is working on a formula that does not necessarily operate on the assumption that the creation of a Palestinian state is a prerequisite for peace.  Furthermore, the U.S. plans to reduce the size of the Palestinian territory which would be theoretically managed by the Palestinian people.  The Palestinians have historically insisted on liberating 100 percent of their homeland, i.e. historic Palestine in which the Palestinians have enjoyed a majority for many centuries, and in which the Jews — as a small minority — were considered part of the local native population.

But the Zionist forces — through terrorism and through Western indulgences — persuaded Western powers that Palestinian rights to 1948 Palestine (what became declared by force as “Israel” in 1948) should never be acknowledged. 

With that principle, Western powers worked to convince Palestinians to confine their national aspirations to no more than 45 percent (in the UN Partition plan of 1947) and then to no more than 22 percent since 1967. With the U.S. entry into direct negotiations with Palestinian representatives since the Madrid Conference of 1991 (disguised as non-PLO), the Palestinians were told that they can have a homeland over most —but not all — the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem. But the American stance was not categorical because it always left it to Israel to decide on how much of the 22 percent of Palestine should the Palestinians have control over, and under which juridical conditions.

President Bill Clinton, in the famous Camp David negotiations, wanted the Palestinians to accept 91 percent of the 22 percent of Palestine, while sovereignty over the “holy sanctuary” would be shared between Israelis and Palestinians, with the Israelis having control over the land and what is underneath it (which Palestinians consider a threat to the very foundations of Al-Aqsa).  Camp David fell and Clinton — typical of him — blamed the Palestinians after having promised Yasser Arafat that he would not blame the Palestinians if the talks did not bear fruits.

What will emerge out of the “Deal of the Century” is even less than what the Palestinians have been offered before — and which they rejected.  The Palestinians will probably be promised Gaza and Area A (under the Oslo agreement, which basically covers areas that the Palestinians — only in theory—control), and East Jerusalem will be part of a united capital for Israel while the Palestinians will be allowed to name areas outside of Jerusalem as their own “East Jerusalem.”

The Israelis will continue, of course, to maintain control of air, land and sea over all Palestinian areas, and the Israeli occupation army will continue to decide who can enter and who can exit Palestinian areas.  And Israeli settlements will be untouched by any of the terms of the “deal.”

Sovereignty over those small Palestinian areas won’t be considered as the U.S. and Israel both have recently reneged on previous promises of statehood. Instead, the plan will revert to what Israel’s Menachem Begin called “autonomy” (under the Camp David negotiations), according to which the Palestinians will exercise limited municipal management of their areas (trash collection, postal service, sewage, etc). 

But it is quite clear that the Palestinians who had rejected such plans in a previous century won’t agree to them now, especially that the octogenarian Mahmoud Abbas (who is already despised and detested by his people for his corruption and fealty to the occupation) won’t dare agree to what Arafat before him had rejected. 

But Trump and his team assume that an infusion of foreign aid and new business in Palestinian areas would serve as a compensation to the Palestinians for the loss of their homeland.   But that assumption is based on a false premise: that people live by bread alone.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the “Historical Dictionary of Lebanon” (1998), “Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), and “The Battle for Saudi Arabia” (2004). He tweets as @asadabukhalil

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7 Years of Lies About Assange Won’t Stop Now

One of the few towering figures of our time was reduced to nothing more than a sex pest and scruffy bail-skipper, writes Jonathan Cook.

By Jonathan Cook
Jonathan-Cook.net

For seven years, from the moment Julian Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, they have been telling us we were wrong, that we were paranoid conspiracy theorists. We were told there was no real threat of Assange’s extradition to the United States, that it was all in our fevered imaginations.

For seven years, we have had to listen to a chorus of journalists, politicians and “experts” telling us that Assange was nothing more than a fugitive from justice, and that the British and Swedish legal systems could be relied on to handle his case in full accordance with the law. Barely a “mainstream” voice was raised in his defense in all that time.

From the moment he sought asylum, Assange was cast as an outlaw. His work as the founder of Wikileaks – a digital platform that for the first time in history gave ordinary people a glimpse into the darkest recesses of the most secure vaults in the deepest of Deep States – was erased from the record.

Assange was reduced from one of the few towering figures of our time – a man who will have a central place in history books, if we as a species live long enough to write those books – to nothing more than a sex pest, and a scruffy bail-skipper.

The political and media class crafted a narrative of half-truths about the sex charges Assange was under investigation for in Sweden. They overlooked the fact that Assange had been allowed to leave Sweden by the original investigator, who dropped the charges, only for them to be revived by another investigator with a well-documented political agenda.

They failed to mention that Assange was always willing to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London, as had occurred in dozens of other cases involving extradition proceedings to Sweden. It was almost as if Swedish officials did not want to test the evidence they claimed to have in their possession.

The media and political courtiers endlessly emphasized Assange’s bail violation in the U.K., ignoring the fact that asylum seekers fleeing legal and political persecution don’t usually honor bail conditions imposed by the very state authorities from which they are seeking asylum.

Ignoring Mounting Evidence

The political and media establishment ignored the mounting evidence of a secret grand jury in Virginia formulating charges against Assange, and ridiculed Wikileaks’ concerns that the Swedish case might be cover for a more sinister attempt by the U.S. to extradite Assange and lock him away in a high-security prison, as had happened to whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

They belittled the 2016 verdict of a panel of United Nations legal scholars that the U.K. was arbitrarily detaining Assange. The media were more interested in the welfare of his cat.

They ignored the fact that after Ecuador changed presidents – with the new one keen to win favor with Washington – Assange was placed under more and more severe forms of solitary confinement. He was denied access to visitors and basic means of communications, violating both his asylum status and his human rights, and threatening his mental and physical wellbeing.

Equally, they ignored the fact that Assange had been given diplomatic status by Ecuador, as well as Ecuadorean citizenship. Britain was obligated to allow him to leave the embassy, using his diplomatic immunity, to travel unhindered to Ecuador. No “mainstream” journalist or politician thought this significant either.

They turned a blind eye to the news that, after refusing to question Assange in the U.K., Swedish prosecutors had decided to quietly drop the case against him in 2015. Sweden had kept the decision under wraps for more than two years.

It was a freedom of information request by an ally of Assange, not a media outlet, that unearthed documents showing that Swedish investigators had, in fact, wanted to drop the case against Assange back in 2013. The UK, however, insisted that they carry on with the charade so that Assange could remain locked up. A British official emailed the Swedes: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

Documents Destroyed

Most of the other documents relating to these conversations were unavailable. They had been destroyed by the U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service in violation of protocol. But no one in the political and media establishment cared, of course.

Similarly, they ignored the fact that Assange was forced to hole up for years in the embassy, under the most intense form of house arrest, even though he no longer had a case to answer in Sweden. They told us – apparently in all seriousness – that he had to be arrested for his bail infraction, something that would normally be dealt with by a fine.

And possibly most egregiously of all, most of the media refused to acknowledge that Assange was a journalist and publisher, even though by failing to do so they exposed themselves to the future use of the same draconian sanctions should they or their publications ever need to be silenced. They signed off on the right of the U.S. authorities to seize any foreign journalist, anywhere in the world, and lock him or her out of sight. They opened the door to a new, special form of rendition for journalists.

This was never about Sweden or bail violations, or even about the discredited Russia-gate narrative, as anyone who was paying the vaguest attention should have been able to work out. It was about the U.S. Deep State doing everything in its power to crush WikiLeaks and make an example of its founder.

It was about making sure there would never again be a leak like that of  “Collateral Murder,” the military video released by Wikileaks in 2007 that showed U.S. soldiers celebrating as they murdered Iraqi civilians. It was about making sure there would never again be a dump of U.S. diplomatic cables, like those released in 2010 that revealed the secret machinations of the U.S. empire to dominate the planet whatever the cost in human rights violations.

Now the pretense is over. The British police invaded the diplomatic territory of Ecuador – invited in by Ecuador after it tore up Assange’s asylum status – to smuggle him off to jail. Two vassal states cooperating to do the bidding of the U.S. empire. The arrest was not to help two women in Sweden or to enforce a minor bail infraction.

No, the British authorities were acting on an extradition warrant from the U.S. And the charges the U.S. authorities have concocted relate to Wikileaks’ earliest work exposing the U.S. military’s war crimes in Iraq – the stuff that we all once agreed was in the public interest, that British and U.S. media clamored to publish themselves.

Still the media and political class is turning a blind eye. Where is the outrage at the lies we have been served up for these past seven years? Where is the contrition at having been gulled for so long? Where is the fury at the most basic press freedom – the right to publish – being trashed to silence Assange? Where is the willingness finally to speak up in Assange’s defense?

It’s not there. There will be no indignation at the BBC, or the Guardian, or CNN. Just curious, impassive – even gently mocking – reporting of Assange’s fate.

And that is because these journalists, politicians and experts never really believed anything they said. They knew all along that the U.S. wanted to silence Assange and to crush Wikileaks. They knew that all along and they didn’t care. In fact, they happily conspired in paving the way for today’s kidnapping of Assange.

They did so because they are not there to represent the truth, or to stand up for ordinary people, or to protect a free press, or even to enforce the rule of law. They don’t care about any of that. They are there to protect their careers, and the system that rewards them with money and influence. They don’t want an upstart like Assange kicking over their applecart.

Now they will spin us a whole new set of deceptions and distractions about Assange to keep us anaesthetized, to keep us from being incensed as our rights are whittled away, and to prevent us from realizing that Assange’s rights and our own are indivisible. We stand or fall together.

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. He blogs at https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/.