Recalling Japan’s ‘Comfort Women’ Rapes

Japan’s current nationalist leadership downplays and denies many crimes from World War II, but a global movement continues to press for a recognition of the mass rapes and murders of so-called “comfort women,” reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

On Sept. 22, a global campaign demanding justice and reparations for the Japanese military’s “Comfort Women” unveiled a bronze statue in San Francisco memorializing the Korean and other Asian women who were sexually abused by Japan’s soldiers during World War II.

The statue, erected by a coalition of local groups led by the Comfort Women Justice Coalition, shows three young women, holding hands in a circle, facing outwards, as an old woman looks on.

I spoke with retired San Francisco Superior Court Judges Lillian K. Sing and Julie Tang, leaders of the movement of the Comfort Women Justice Coalition, and Flashpoints correspondent K.J. Noh, about the war crime in which as many as 400,000 women were mass raped and often murdered by the Japanese.

Dennis Bernstein: K.J., lay out a brief background on the so-called “comfort women.” When did this mass kidnapping and rape take place…and basically who was responsible?

K.J. Noh: The term “Comfort Women” is a euphemism for the young women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military between 1932 and 1945 throughout the Asia Pacific region of Japan’s colonial “co-prosperity sphere.”

It’s estimated that approximately between 200,000-400,000 women and girls, some as young as thirteen, were forced into an industrialized system of rape, “servicing” up to 60 soldiers a day. Scholars estimate that this resulted in a fatality rate of up to 90%. The system has been described as “considered unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude,” and survivors have referred to “comfort stations” as “a living hell”, “a slaughter house”.

The Empire of Japan was a theocratic military dictatorship at that time, and its military government systematically planned, implemented, trafficked, transported, enslaved and, towards the end of war, slaughtered these women. This crime against humanity has still not been officially acknowledged by the Japanese government.

Dennis Bernstein:The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, apparently does not believe that these World War II Comfort Women deserve anything.

K.J. Noh: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the grandson of Japan’s postwar Prime Minister, Nobusuke Kishi, a class-A war criminal, and is the figurehead of the hyper-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party faction that would like to see Japan restored as a global imperial superpower. Because of this, Abe has made Japanese historical denialism official government policy, launching a massive global PR campaign to “correct” the world’s understanding of Japan’s colonial and WWII history.

Abe has also come out with some very bellicose statements against North Korea and is a big proponent of military action. Recently he wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in which he misrepresented the history of nuclear negotiations with North Korea, arguing that diplomacy will not work. He writes that, “Prioritizing diplomacy and emphasizing the importance of dialogue will not work with North Korea.”

In order to back up his argument, he lies about the breakdown of the 1994 agreed framework, which effectively stopped the North Korean nuclear program until 2002. He fails to mention that the framework contained promises to normalize relations with North Korea, to remove trade barriers, and to enact a non-aggression pact, and that none of these conditions were upheld by the US. He glosses this over and then makes the argument that there is no possibility of dialogue.

Interestingly, in this op-ed, Abe mentions the abduction of a young Japanese girl by the North Koreans as proof of how immoral and unethical they are. What is interesting is that the North Koreans have acknowledged abducting between thirteen and seventeen Japanese citizens and condemned those actions, although they have not given formal reparations yet. But to this day, Abe has not even acknowledged the abduction of between 200,000 and 400,000 young women and girls from Korea and the colonies.

Dennis Bernstein: Last week a memorial was unveiled in San Francisco to the Comfort Women, over the vehement opposition of the Japanese government.

Lillian Sing: I was born in Shanghai, China, where over 200,000 girls and women were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. As an Asian-American woman, I will not be silenced. How can I not get involved, when my sisters were kidnapped and raped over and over again–sometimes over eighty times a day?! What is most heinous is that the Japanese government has refused to recognize their role in these crimes. Justice delayed is justice denied. Over 400,000 Comfort Women were kidnapped, and now there are only a few dozen left.

Julie Tang: I grew up learning about the Japanese atrocities committed during World War II. In 1991 these now elderly women told the world what had happened to them. But it was really the Japanese government denial of what had happened that drove me to become involved. The Japanese government has done everything it could to prevent this memorial from being built, but we have been able to overcome all the hurdles.

Dennis Bernstein: Could you describe the multiple struggles you faced getting this memorial constructed?

Lillian Sing: Japan is very afraid of the truth. It even went before the US Supreme Court to block a memorial in Glendale of a little girl sitting on a chair. It feared that that memorial would interfere with Japanese/US relations. Now the mayor of Osaka has threatened to break off its sister-city relationship with San Francisco if a memorial is erected there. The Japanese government is now accusing China of being behind this, of trying to drive a wedge between South Korea and Japan over this memorial.

Julie Tang: I think it is extremely insulting to the victims for the Japanese leadership to be blaming everybody but themselves. First it claimed that these women were willing prostitutes. Now they are pointing fingers at China. They are saying that Judge Sing and I are essentially puppets of the Chinese government, that we are attempting to drive a wedge between South Korea and Japan in their efforts to contain North Korea.

K.J. Noh: The key thing to re-emphasize is that Japan was a fascist military dictatorship with a wartime command economy that controlled every aspect of procurement, distribution and recruitment of all material, including human labor.

We know for a fact that these women were trafficked over thousands of miles, all over the colonies. There are documents that requisition thousands of girls, who were often procured and delivered in short periods of time. These actions would not have been possible without coordinated government actions.

Another point to highlight is that this was not simply the largest case of sexual trafficking, it was also an unprecedented femicide. Between 75-90% percent of these women died during their sexual enslavement. That makes it a modern femicidal holocaust.

The Japanese government has never taken any responsibility for this. From time to time they make generic statements of remorse which mean nothing. They refuse to recognize, take responsibility, and to make any reasonable official reparations. And they have refused to ratify any of their apologies in the Japanese Diet, which is what would be necessary for a state apology.

A memorial is actually a poor substitute for what is really needed, which is justice, reparations, education and apology. A monument is just a small symbolic gesture against a backdrop of one of the most extraordinary cases of silencing in modern history.

The Western human rights complex has had a very selective attention, including in the case of the Comfort Women. That is because it is largely driven by imperial geopolitical design. We see that with the statements of the State Department, of Wendy Sherman in particular, who poo-pooed the whole Comfort Women issue, saying they needed to get over it and it shouldn’t be used for nationalistic purposes, and the statements of Anthony Blinken, who urged that South Korea get behind the absurd, fraudulent 2015 “agreement”, the written text of which can be found nowhere. The memory of the Comfort Women is something that needs to be highlighted but is being erased.

What we are seeing now is the remilitarization of Japan as a key factor in waging war against China, the rising regional hegemon. The issue of Japanese colonization ties in intimately, is an impediment to the legitimacy of Japanese remilitarization.

Lillian Sing: San Francisco is being threatened not to accept this memorial. We want to make sure that San Francisco does not allow itself to be threatened in this way by its Japanese counterpart. Mr. Abe makes annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine to honor class-A war criminals. We in San Francisco would like to have a memorial to honor the war victims. Our memorial is for peace, not war. And there will be no peace in Asia without Japan apologizing.

Julie Tang: I’d like to invite people to visit the memorial. Actually, it is not yet open to the public but we hope it will be soon, with the help of the mayor and the board of supervisors.

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.




Hurricanes Blow Away Climate Change Denial

The startling landfall of two giant hurricanes – feasting on especially warm water off Texas and Florida – crashes into the climate change denialism that has been politically popular on the Right, notes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

The loss of respect for truth is one of the most consequential features of public affairs in American today. The roots and causes of this tragic development are multiple. The spread of social media and the related ability to spread untruths cheaply at the speed of electrons are parts of the story. Another part is the phenomenon of fake news (real fake news, that is, not alleged fake news that is really real news that the alleger doesn’t welcome).

The advent of Donald Trump’s presidency has taken this sad story to new depths. The President lies copiously, flagrantly, unashamedly, and far beyond what had been the norm for political fibbing. He has shown how a political career, rising even to the highest office of the land, can be built on lying.

Correctives to this awful trend are difficult to identify. The tribal belief system that prevails in most of the American population, in which people chiefly listen to and believe sources they identify with politically or socially and had already been telling them what they want to hear, is so well entrenched it seems almost impossible to overcome. Many people reject factual corrections as a form of bias and unfair treatment by sources (such as the “left-wing media”) with which they do not identify politically or socially.

The epistemological rut in which the nation currently is mired is captured by a cartoon in which a man wearing a Trump shirt comments on how the President has lied about jobs, health care, and other topics. When asked by the person on the next barstool why he nonetheless supports Trump, the man replies, “cuz he tells it like it is.”

Combating lies with counter-lies would not be wise. However much it might help to arrive at any one decision or policy that is better than the alternative, the larger effect would be to prolong and deepen the damaging disrespect for truth. One can shape arguments, however, in ways that, while still truthful, are better able to get through to lie-besotted masses than the most thoughtful and disinterested analysis would.

In that regard, the United States getting hit with two major hurricanes in rapid succession provides a teaching opportunity regarding the critical issue of climate change. Thoughtful leaders such as former President Barack Obama habitually issue the standard disclaimer that no one weather event can be attributed to manmade climate change. This sort of caution, while intellectually admirable, represents excessive reticence when considering what it takes to get through skulls and through information filters in the post-truth epoch.

Like Smoking and Cancer

Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican who ran the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush, notes not only that the basic physical links involving global warming, greenhouse gases, and burning of fossil fuels are “as certain as the link between smoking and cancer.” She further observes that ”a broad consensus of scientists also warn of the influence of the warming climate on extreme weather events.”

The overall connections, in other words, in terms of cause, effect, and degree of risk are unquestionable, even if no one case of lung cancer can be blamed on any one pack of cigarettes.

Focusing on the most recent tropical cyclones would not necessarily be the way a completely objective analysis in some other epoch would shape a disquisition on climate change. And focusing on Harvey and Irma would partly play to the otherwise unfortunate tendency to treat one data point as an event but two data points as a trend.

Politically, however, seizing such a teaching opportunity, in which there is an immediate physical impact even on many people who get their news from Rush Limbaugh, is a necessary while still truthful way to battle untruths.

Such a moment also places in especially stark relief the dishonesty, and related hypocrisy, of leading climate change skeptics. These include Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other legislators on the right from his part of the country, who voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy but now look to the federal government for help to victims of Hurricane Harvey, while trying to rationalize their inconsistency with the lie that most of the Sandy relief was not related to damage from the storm.

They include Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has used the standard cop-out of “I am not a scientist” to explain his failure to acknowledge manmade climate change, and whose lackadaisical policies in preparing for effects of climate change will mean additional suffering by the citizens of his state from the storm that is hitting them now. They include President Trump, whose EPA has put a former campaign aide with no scientific expertise to work in eliminating grants with the “double-C” term to ensure that climate change does not get studied with agency funds.

Without diminishing any immediate sympathy and support for those whose lives the hurricanes have upended, this is the time to shout from rooftops that dishonest climate-change-denying politicians are causing more such suffering in the future for Americans as well as others. And when Trump’s EPA destroyer (a.k.a. administrator) Scott Pruitt says that now is not the time to talk about climate change, the proper response is that now is an excellent time to talk about it.

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.)




A Victory Seen Over ‘State-Sponsored Racism’

The restoration of a Mexican-American studies program in Tucson, Arizona public schools is being hailed as an important step in telling the more complex history of the American West, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

Advocates of Mexican-American studies are celebrating a federal court ruling restoring one of the most successful programs in Arizona public schools as a victory against “state-sponsored racism.”

Nolan Cabrera, associate professor at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, has been involved from the beginning in resisting the controversial removal of ethnic studies from the Tucson Unified School District. I spoke to Cabrera on Aug. 26, after a U.S. District Court judge’s decision in favor of the restoration of the program.

Cabrera is a recipient of the prestigious education early-career award the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral fellowship and is a fellow for the American Association for Hispanics in Higher Education.

Dennis Bernstein: Nolan Cabrera, you created an ethnic studies program at the University of Arizona that provided the informational background for the students who fought the effort to shut down ethnic studies in Tucson. How did you get involved?

Dr. Nolan Cabrera: I became involved in the struggle around Mexican American studies running statistical analyses on the efficacy of the program. Interestingly, I was doing this for the desegregation case, which was a separate issue from House Bill 2281, that banned ethnic studies. But then that became the basis for the other statistical analyses, which demonstrated the program’s remarkable achievements in terms of student development over the years.

DB: Could you talk about the pressure that is building in Arizona right now? President Trump just made a kind of campaign stop in Phoenix, praising Sheriff Joe [Arpaio] and saying that he plans to pardon him. What does it mean for Trump to be there?

NC: When ethnic studies was banned in 2010, there was also a massive anti-immigrant bill and a move to eliminate affirmative action. We had border militias, there was the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords. It is almost as if the rest of America has become like what Arizona was at that time. So, while it is important that the president is here in Arizona, in terms of emboldening white supremacists and those advocating for regressive social policies, it is very much par for the course. We have been dealing with this for the better part of a decade in Arizona.

DB: When Trump praises Sheriff Joe, in spite of the fact that he has been convicted of breaking the law, what message is he sending and how does that reverberate with white supremacists?

NC: Firstly, there is this whole macho bravado that really resonates with a lot of Trump supporters, of which Sheriff Joe is a classic example. He likes to call himself “the toughest sheriff in the country.” Actually, he was picking on poor undocumented migrants, subjecting them to inhumane conditions. That’s not toughness, that’s not strength. It is just bullying, cowardice and racism.

If he is pardoned, it will send a clear message that racial profiling, hunting down Mexicans, etc. is acceptable. As a colleague of mine in Colorado, Susana Munoz, says, “Dehumanizing policies give a license to dehumanize.”

In Arizona, it has had a twofold effect: It is emboldening racist action and, at the same time, it is sending up a flag welcoming new membership. The Southern Poverty Law Center is currently tracking 18 substantiated hate groups in the state of Arizona. One of my friends remarked that he didn’t realize the number was so low. And when rhetoric from the top draws false equivalencies between neo-Nazis and Black Lives Matter, it allows the white supremacists to feel vindicated and it justifies violence against civil rights organizations.

I am glad that a lot of the people who have been playing overt racist politics have been voted out of office in Arizona: Russell Pierce, John Huppenthal, Tom Horne and Joe Arpaio. In some respects, the voting populace as a whole is pushing back on this politics of racism and division. This is an incredibly important symbolic act.

DB: You were a key witness in the recent case in Tucson regarding the attempt by certain legislators to end the ethnic studies program there, which was proven to be incredibly successful. Could you remind people exactly what the case was about? And didn’t the judge rule that ethnic studies was a positive part of the educational system in Tucson?

NC: Back in 2006, superintendent of public education Tom Horne had an ax to grind with Mexican American studies. He worked three times to get a bill passed to allow him to eliminate the program.

In 2010, he was finally successful and that is when we got House Bill 2281, which allowed Horne to withhold ten percent of state funding for any district that had any class found to promote racial antagonism or treat students as representatives of their race. And it was up to Horne to determine what constituted a violation. So if students are reading a well-known book such as Rudi Acuña’s Occupied America or Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, according to the state superintendent of public instruction, that constitutes a violation.

What came out in the federal lawsuit was that Horne had found the district out of compliance before the law had even gone into effect, so it was a predetermined outcome to eliminate the Mexican American studies program, and that Horne and Huppenthal acted out of racial animus.

Actually, John Huppenthal was caught anonymously blogging that he thought the Mexican American studies program was the KKK by another name. When he ran for state superintendent of public instruction, he ran a radio ad saying that, if elected, he would stop La Raza.

Students were only able to take Mexican American studies in their junior and senior years of high school. I started looking at the academic achievement of students prior to taking Mexican American studies and I found that they were abysmally low. These same students, after taking Mexican American studies, had some of the highest graduation rates in the entire district.

It was such an amazing accomplishment that the state, as it was trying to defend HB 2281, made the case that there was no way these statistics could be credible. The judge ruled that the law did harm to these students because it stripped them of this very promising educational opportunity. He also found that representatives of the state were using coded racist language for partisan purposes.

DB: There was strong support for these programs from the students, who knew how crucial they were to their own lives.

NC: Every time that Mexican American studies would come as an issue before the school board, the room would be packed with students. And then when the board was going to unilaterally destroy the program in April, 2011, a group of student activists chained themselves to the diocese before the school board was able to convene.

So much of the commentary at the time was, “Oh, these kids are throwing a temper tantrum, the adults need to reassert themselves.” But the students explained that they had studied civil disobedience and the actions of the ’60s. This was an intentional political act and they knew that they could get arrested. A lot of them were applying to colleges but they were willing to take this risk if it meant saving their studies. The level of personal risk these students were taking, as well as the sophistication of political strategy, was phenomenal.

This is what participatory democracy is supposed to look like. All too often, we have ignored the roles of the students in these important social movements and forget that it is their education that is at stake. These students continually reminded folks of that. So, you had multiple student-led demonstrations, students speaking at board meetings, students working with the media.

In fact, when they finally succeeded in eliminating the Mexican American studies program, the student group UNIDOS actually created a School of Ethnic Studies, a one-day event where people could come and learn from the curriculum that Arizona had outlawed.

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.




President Trump’s ‘White Blindness’

Exclusive: By defending “beautiful” Confederate statues, President Trump shows how little he understands about the evils of slavery and the cruelty on lynchings and segregation, but he is by no means alone, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The blindness of President Trump regarding racial bigotry – and indeed that of many white Americans – is that whatever they say to the contrary, they really don’t appreciate the evils of slavery or the ensuing century of lynchings and segregation.

And, much of that ignorance comes from the systematic rationalizing and romanticizing of the ante-bellum South while shielding from criticism many of slavery’s historical apologists, including both Confederate “heroes” and earlier icons such as Thomas Jefferson who became a staunch advocate for expanding slavery all the better to increase his financial bottom line.

Although I grew up in Massachusetts in the 1950s and 1960s, our “history” textbooks could easily have passed muster in the Deep South. They treated slavery as an unfortunate feature of America’s past but not really all that bad, an institution in which most slave owners were kindly masters but a few employed cruel overseers who committed some isolated abuses like whippings.

And, if that recollection of my grade-school experience sounds hard to believe, just watch the 1939 movie classic “Gone with the Wind,” which presents Tara’s plantation slaves as mostly content with their enslavement and loyal to their masters. That was pretty much what Americans were taught for generations and explains why the 1977 TV miniseries “Roots” was such a shocking event, because it showed the systematic cruelty of slavery from the perspective of the slaves.

By 1980, the decades-old “conventional wisdom” about the quaint-and-misguided-but-mostly-okay institution of human bondage was shattered not only by TV’s dramatic portrayal of slavery but also by sound historic scholarship, which gained greater attention due to the Civil Rights Movement and growing popular resistance to “patriotic” propaganda.

Reagan’s Dog Whistle

Still, many white Americans rejected the notion of white guilt for those past crimes and rallied to Ronald Reagan’s crude caricatures about “welfare queens” and people who used food stamps to buy vodka and other luxuries. While Reagan was careful not to say outright that he was referring to blacks, he didn’t have to because his listeners understood the coded messages.

Similarly, when Reagan’s Vice President George H.W. Bush ran for and won the presidency in 1988, he exploited the story of Willie Horton, a black convict who raped a white woman while on a Massachusetts prison furlough that Bush blamed on his Democratic rival, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Indeed, the Republican Party had been playing the race card since Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy of 1968. It’s not a coincidence that this racial messaging swung the Democrats’ once-solid South overwhelmingly into the Republican electoral column.

So, it’s a bit ironic when the U.S. mainstream media cites Republicans who have benefited from these race-baiting dog whistles as responsible leaders when they decry Trump’s slightly more overt appeals to white nationalists and other racists. On the immediate issue of Confederate statues and other honors, the Republicans have long led the way in protecting these tributes to white supremacy under the guise of “defending history.”

On Thursday, Trump retreated to that safer GOP position after days of criticism for his rhetorical excuse-making and moral equivalence following  last Saturday’s violent rally by neo-Nazis, the KKK and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in defense of a Confederate monument to Gen. Robert E. Lee, which the local government had voted to remove.

Trump tweeted: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”

Neo-Confederate Thinking

But that is the classic defense of neo-Confederate racist thinking. The pretense is that these monuments and other honors are simply a recognition of history when they were clearly intended to glorify the Confederacy and its rebellion against the United States over the Southern fear that slavery would be abolished and the wealth of plantation owners effectively negated.

Most of these monuments were erected in the Twentieth Century, often as symbolic rebukes to progress being made by the descendants of African-American slaves. These were monuments to white supremacy — and for Trump and other white Americans to pretend otherwise is anti-historical nonsense.

Beyond monuments, other public spaces were named after Confederate leaders. For instance, in the 1920s – at the height of the Jim Crow era as lynchings were used to terrorize black communities energized by the return of African-American soldiers from World War I – the Daughters of the Confederacy succeeded in attaching the name of Confederate President Jefferson Davis to sections of Route 1, including in Arlington County, Virginia, near predominately black neighborhoods.

In 1964, as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement gained passage of a landmark civil rights law, the Virginia legislature added Jefferson Davis’s name to a section of Route 110 that passed by the Pentagon and near Arlington National Cemetery, which was begun in the Civil War to bury dead Union soldiers, including black troops who joined the Army to fight for their freedom.

On Jefferson Davis’s authority, Confederate soldiers were permitted to summarily execute African-American Union soldiers upon their surrender, a practice that was carried out in several notorious massacres, such as at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, on April 12, 1864; the Battle of Poison Springs, Arkansas, in April 1864; and the Battle of the Crater in Virginia. Scores of black prisoners were executed in Saltville, Virginia, on Oct. 2, 1864. It should be noted that the Confederate troops of Virginia were under the command of the esteemed Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Democratic Cowardice

A few years back, I wrote to the five members of the Arlington County Board and urged them to rename Jefferson Davis Highway. When my letter went public, it was treated with some amusement by the local paper, the Sun-Gazette, which described me as “rankled,” and prompted some hate mail.

One angry letter from an Arlington resident declared that it was now her turn to be “RANKLED by outsiders like Mr. Parry who want to change history because it is not to his liking. I am very proud of my Commonwealth’s history, but not of the current times, as I’m sure many others are.” Those current times included the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American president.

I was even confronted by a senior Democratic county official at a meeting about a different topic and urged to desist in my proposal to give the highway a new name because the idea would alienate state politicians in Richmond who would think that “liberal” Arlington County had gone crazy.

However, since a number of Arlington residents apparently shared my disgust over Jefferson Davis Highway, the county board eventually agreed to send a request to the state legislature that the road’s name be changed, but it was clearly not a priority for the board or for other Virginia Democratic officials who feared offending pro-Confederate voters (although in the wake of the bloody Charlottesville riot, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has finally come out in favor of removing the monuments honoring the Confederacy).

Honoring Treason

The dishonesty of Trump’s “history” argument – and its well-worn use by Confederate apologists – is underscored by the obvious fact that statues and other honors are meant to transform historical figures into icons to be emulated. Governments do not bestow these honors on criminals or traitors just because they are historical figures.

You don’t see many government statues to Al Capone or Benedict Arnold. And, Americans would be rightly alarmed if Germany began erecting statues to Adolf Hitler and his Nazi henchmen. So, to pretend that these Confederate statues are not meant to glorify the South’s battle to protect the institution (or industry) of slavery is simply a lie.

Arguably, Trump does have a point about the historical ambiguity surrounding the nation’s Founders, many of whom owned slaves although Trump’s argument amounts to another rhetorical dodge. There is a distinct difference between George Washington who led the War for Independence, presided at the Constitutional Convention and served as the first President (and who grew increasingly uncomfortable with slavery) and the Confederates who turned their guns against the United States in a disastrous war to protect the interests of slaveholders.

In any evaluation of history, distinctions must be made. Nobody is perfect. Even Founders who were opposed to slavery, such as Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, can be rightly criticized for other political positions that they took as the United States sought to find its footing in its early years.

Jefferson’s Hypocrisy

More troubling is the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, who is hailed for penning the Declaration of Independence and its noble words that “all men are created equal” – although Jefferson in his other writings, such as Notes on the State of Virginia, made clear that he did not believe that at all. Jefferson was a hypocrite of the first order.

Recent historical revelations also reveal Jefferson to have been a much more ruthless slave master than his admirers have wanted to believe. He countenanced the whipping of boys, calculated the financial value of child-bearing females, and apparently helped the “breeding” along by imposing himself sexually on one and likely more of his slave girls.

Also, left out of many Jefferson biographies is why he established the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. It wasn’t simply his devotion to learning; he feared that young Southern aristocrats going north to school would be contaminated by the arguments against slavery and in favor of a strong national government, twin evils that the erudite Jefferson called “‘anti-Missourism,’” and “Consolidationism.”

Further contributing to the nation’s divisions, Jefferson propounded theories about state secession and pushed for expansion of slavery throughout the Louisiana Territories. In his later years, he became what you might call a pre-Confederate. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Thomas Jefferson: America’s Founding Sociopath.”]

Still, even in his hypocrisy, Jefferson deserves credit for enunciating what would become an important American contribution to global human rights, the proposition that governments should treat all citizens equally, a principle that Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders wielded in their own battles against racial injustice.

Despite their faults, to put Washington and Jefferson on the same historical plane as Jefferson Davis and the Confederates makes a mockery of historical distinctions.

That the United States would honor people responsible for a horrific war designed to perpetuate slavery – leaders who authorized the outright murder of unarmed soldiers just because of the color of their skin – should shock the conscience of any moral human being although apparently not President Trump.

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




Photographing a White-Supremacist Attack

Some of the most dramatic scenes from last weekend’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville — images of white extremists beating a black man in a parking lot — were captured by photographer Zach Roberts who talked with Dennis J Bernstein.

Dennis J Bernstein

While many images of neo-Nazi violence from last Saturday’s riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, have gone viral around the world, the photographs taken by Zach Roberts, a fellow at GregPalast.com, are particularly shocking in their documentation of the brutal beating of a young black special-education teacher in a parking garage about 50 feet from where police park their patrol cars.

At one point during the beating, one of the neo-Nazis pulled out what appeared to be a Glock 9 and brandished it, threatening Roberts and others who came rushing on the scene to rescue their friend from being beaten to death.

Dennis Bernstein: Thanks for joining us, Zach Roberts. Where were you Saturday as the white supremacists began to expand out over the city? You took some photography that might mean a lot to law enforcement if they planned to file charges in this case.

Zach Roberts: After the breakdown of the rally in Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park, the marchers started to take to the streets around 11:30. I ended up following them as they marched down Market Street. There were people on the sidewalks with signs saying “You’re not welcome here,” “Charlottesville is against white supremacy,” and so on.

The white supremacists were yelling back racial slurs. Some of them were geared up with one-inch thick wooden dowels, with Confederate and Nazi-esque flags, helmets on, gas masks around their necks.

They were tooled up for violence. So when you hear people saying that this wasn’t supposed to be a violent rally, I’m sorry, but you don’t show up for a peaceful rally wearing combat gear. They were expecting violence and they got it, because they caused it.

A friend of mine, a female photographer named Stephanie Keith, was deeply affected by the sexist comments directed at her. She covered Standing Rock and other difficult assignments but I have never seen her affected that way.

DB: Tell us in detail about the beating that you witnessed.

ZR: We were marching down a commercial/residential street, small businesses along the way, almost everything closed down because they expected bad things to happen. I was walking alongside one of the more combat-ready groups of marchers.

As we got closer to the parking garage, all I saw was a young black man running and about a dozen white supremacists chasing after him with long poles and clubs. Someone with a shield pushed him into a parking arm. That broke and the young black man fell to the ground and was unconscious. They started beating him with their clubs, they picked up the parking arm

and started hitting him with that.

This went on for about thirty seconds. They scattered when some of the African American man’s friends showed up. His friends picked him up and helped him walk to the garage staircase. He was bleeding profusely from the head and knees and an elbow where he fell. As I was walking to the staircase, I saw that one of the supremacists was pointing a gun at us.

A single African-American police officer finally showed up. This is thirty feet away from the police station. The police actually keep a lot of their cars in this same parking garage. Five minutes later, an ambulance still hadn’t shown up. When more officers showed up about ten minutes later, all they did was stop journalists from taking photographs of the beaten man.

An ambulance finally did appear and took the man to a hospital. He had multiple stitches and a broken wrist. I’m sure people online are trying to come up with justifications for why this man was beaten. By the way, he is an assistant special education teacher in the local school system.

DB: It seems to me that the people who attacked him need some special education. Or maybe they have already been specially educated.

ZR: Yes, by people like Richard Spencer and other white supremacists.

DB: In various instances, the police seemed to turn a blind eye. There were plenty of cops around, except when violence broke out and then they seemed to disappear. The same thing happened when the car ran into the crowd. There was plenty of room for this car to come out of this blind alley and then even drive away before he was finally stopped. It really does seem that the police were somehow complicit in what was going on.

ZR: My understanding is that the police were basically issued a stand-down order to allow the protest to happen. Don’t arrest people unless they are doing something that is endangering lives. Keep everyone safe but don’t try to confront.

But in this case the police seemed to refuse to do anything at all. They seemed to consciously put themselves in places where nothing was happening. A colleague of mine fell and had a gash in her head. I waited beside her for ten minutes and none of the police officers called an ambulance.

DB: I saw on one of the cable stations a white guy pushing a cop in SWAT gear and nothing happened to him. Can you imagine somebody from Black Lives Matter shoving into a group of cops in riot gear and not being taken down?

ZR: When I cover protests, I purposely wear a polo shirt and khakis and try to look like the whitest guy in the room so I don’t get harassed by the police in any way. In this case it was easier to blend in with the white supremacists and they were comfortable talking to me. Some of them were complaining about the police, saying “Look, they let Black Lives Matter march down the middle of the street.” Well, if members of Black Lives Matter had AR-15’s and were marching with full combat gear, something tells me it would be a different scene.

DB: We saw that in the Sixties with the Panthers when they decided to exercise their Second Amendment rights. They were slaughtered.

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.




In Case You Missed…

Some of our special stories in July focused on the first meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin, the growing chaos surrounding the Trump administration, and the ongoing violence in the Middle East.

Trump Takes Aim at Energy R&D Funds” by Jonathan Marshall, Jul. 1, 2017

What Trump Can Expect from Putin” by Ray McGovern, Jul. 1, 2017

Foisting Blame for Cyber-hacking on Russia” by Gareth Porter, Jul. 2, 2017

The Democratic Party’s Deadly Dead-End” by Nicolas J S Davies, Jul. 3, 2017

Russia-China Tandem Shifts Global Power” by Ray McGovern, Jul. 3, 2017

Grim Lessons from a Faraway War” by Don North, Jul. 4, 2017

The Price of America’s Endless Wars” by Kathy Kelly, Jul. 4, 2017

The Fight over Mexican-American Books” by Dennis J Bernstein, Jul. 6, 2017

MSM, Still Living in Propaganda-ville” by Robert Parry, Jul. 6, 2017

Macron Cracks Down on French Liberty” by Jonathan Marshall, Jul. 7, 2017

Hiding US Lies About Libyan Invasion” by Joe Lauria, Jul. 7, 2017

Risk of Unleashing ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis” by David Marks, Jul. 8, 2017

The Syrian Test of Trump-Putin Accord” by Ray McGovern, Jul. 8, 2017

Ten Problems with Anti-Russian Obsession” by Rick Sterling, Jul. 9, 2017

Trump and the New Mideast Paradox” by Alastair Crooke, Jul. 10, 2017

The Enduring Injustice of Palestine” by John Pilger, Jul. 10, 2017

Forgetting the ‘Dirty Dossier’ on Trump” by Robert Parry, Jul. 10, 2017

Ignoring the Human Disaster in Yemen” by Alon Ben-Meir, Jul. 12, 2017

How Russia-gate Met the Magnitsky Myth” by Robert Parry, Jul. 13, 2017

Rising Budget Stakes for Space Warfare” by Jonathan Marshall, Jul. 14, 2017

Neocons Enlist in Anti-Trump #Resistance” by James W Carden, Jul. 15, 2017

Moral Corrosion of Drone Warfare” by Ray McGovern, Jul. 16, 2017

The Logic in North Korean ‘Madness’” by Col. Ann Wright, Jul. 17, 2017

Netanyahu Pushes Trump Toward Wider Wars” by Robert Parry, Jul. 18, 2017

The Right’s Long War on Media” by Jonathan Marshall, Jul. 20, 2017

How Trump Defines the Future” by Alastair Crooke, Jul. 20, 2017

Holding onto Nuclear Weapons” by Dennis J Bernstein, Jul. 21, 2017

The Bloody ‘Liberation’ of Mosul” by Dennis J Bernstein, Jul. 23, 2017

The Unending Failure of the Afghan War” by Alon Ben-Meir, Jul. 23, 2017

Intel Vets Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence” by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Jul. 24, 2017

Pitching the ‘Forever War’ in Afghanistan” by James W Carden, Jul. 25, 2017

House GOP Seeks to Curb Yemen War” by Dennis J Bernstein, Jul. 26, 2017

PBS’ Anti-Russia Propaganda Series” by Rick Sterling, Jul. 27, 2017

The World’s Shift to Electric Cars” by Jonathan Marshall, Jul. 28, 2017

The Dawn of an Orwellian Future” by Robert Parry, Jul. 28, 2017

An Interview with WikiLeaks’ Assange” by Randy Credico & Dennis J Bernstein, Jul. 29, 2017

Jerry Meldon’s Passion for History”, Jul. 29, 2017

Can Trump Find the ‘Great’ Path?” by Robert Parry, Jul. 30, 2017

Shielding Israel from Popular Outrage” by Lawrence Davidson, Jul. 31, 2017

 

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

 




Behind Trump’s Trip to Poland

Before visiting many key U.S. allies, including either Mexico or Canada, President Trump traveled to Poland last week, getting a friendly reception from another nationalist politician, President Andrzej Duda, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

Perhaps the most overlooked part of President Donald Trump’s trip to Europe last week was his 18-hour visit to Poland as the guest of political ally and fellow nationalist, President Andrzej Duda.

I interviewed Ronald Cox, a professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University, about the significance of Trump’s decision to make an early visit to Poland. Cox is author or editor of numerous books including Corporate Power and Globalization in US Foreign Policy. I spoke to Cox on July 6.

Dennis Bernstein: Why did Trump go to Poland? What’s your overview? And then let’s talk about what we understand might have happened.

Ronald Cox: Trump is essentially continuing in Poland what he’s already doing in the United States. He’s extending militarization, and support for those countries that are thoroughly militarizing their economy, as well as political parties that are in favor of unleashing a further militarization and policing of the domestic population, which Trump approves of, not only at home but in a country like Poland.

DB: Say a little bit more about that, doing the same thing there as he’s doing here? Give us a few more details on that.

RC: Okay, so the first two aspects of Trump’s speech are worthy of note. The first aspect is the support for Poland’s increased military spending toward NATO. Poland has been one of five countries that have surpassed a 2% threshold, that Trump was urging all NATO member countries to pass regarding 2% of military spending… 2% of GDP. So Trump celebrated that aspect.

The second aspect that Trump celebrated was this particular attitude of a political party — the Law and Justice Party in Poland — which is engaged in a militarization campaign, a policing campaign inside Poland that has strong consequences domestically. Because one of its targets is Muslims. And one of the targets is what is labelled Islamic Extremists, but oftentimes with a broad brush is simply painted – the Muslim population. So there’s been increased harassment of Muslims, increased attacks against Muslims that have been, essentially, endorsed by this government.

And it’s a mistake to consider the Law and Justice Party a new development in Poland. They’ve actually been a dominant opposition party for some time. They were previously in a position of power, in Poland. So they have a lengthy history that coincides nicely with what the Polish state has done over the past 15 years, which essentially is to implement a set of neo-liberal policies which includes privatization, which includes deregulation.

In fact, aspects of their program are quite compatible with what is typically labelled neo-liberal economic policy, even though they’re often referred to as a far-right, nationalist party. But in this case, nationalism is being geared towards supporting a further emboldening of the private sector, a further emboldening of the security forces, the police and the military, as a way to protect a defined population in Poland.

If you note an important aspect of Trump’s speech, he talked about the importance of defending civilization. He didn’t talk about the importance of defending democracy. He didn’t talk about the importance of popular participation, other than equating popular will with a vision of civilization. This is sort of straight out of the Steve Bannon playbook, which pits white civilization, particularly white Christian civilization, against other types of civilization.

So, in that sense, Trump in his speech was directly, sort of, calling forth this clash of civilizations narrative. Which, I think, feeds into his administration’s support for far-right regimes.

DB: And it did appear, at least it appeared that he had strong support from the folks on the street. That these were very strong and powerful supporters of the government of Poland and of Trump, in this context. Would that be a proper perception?

RC: Yes, except I would qualify it in the following sense. What helped catapult this party to power is the fact that the neo-liberal policies have come with a growing problem in Poland, as elsewhere. You have a massive gap between rich and poor. You have one-fifth of the country which is in poverty. And this is particularly true in the eastern part of the country. So you see workers there, you see small farmers there who gravitated towards the Law and Justice Party because, frankly, there’s no left alternative in Poland.

So the Law and Justice Party was able to drive a wedge between popular frustration at not having a better social page, or better access to welfare, that we protect them from declining income, and declining access to good jobs, and anger at the state itself. So, they’re redirecting that anger towards immigrant populations, in particular the Muslim population.

DB: And there would be, in the context of the forced migrations coming out of the wars in the Middle East, where Poland is much more on the front line. And they’ve had a rather militant response, wouldn’t you say?

RC: Exactly. Poland has announced, this is not just a Law and Justice Party but this is other major parties in Poland, have announced that they’re simply not going to accept the European Union’s stipulation that countries take in a certain percentage of refugees, corresponding to their population and their status. Poland has basically said “We’re not going to do it.” They’re not the only country that has taken that position. Certainly Hungary took a very strong position. They also are led now by a far-right government.

DB: And how have they actually treated… it’s been pretty violent treatment of the refugees….

RC: Yes.

DB: …those fleeing war. Could you talk about that?

RC: Yeah. Sure. So, what you have in Poland is, and this is not only the tacit, but the rather open and blatant acceptance by the dominant political parties in Poland, in targeting refugees immigrants, you know, quite openly, as enemies of civilization. The term civilization that Trump invoked is broadly used to suggest, “Well, we are at war with people different than ourselves.” It’s interesting how the Law and Justice Party if you read them carefully, they actually deny that they’re nationalists. They say “No, nationalism is not a good thing.” They don’t have the leaders in the party on record as saying this.

And I think if we’re going to translate what they’ve been saying into a sort of larger framework for what they believe, they really do believe, “Well, it’s not strictly a nationalist Poland that is reacting against foreign threats, but it’s a broader sort of Catholic Church Christianity which embodies a certain set of values, that are reacting against threats that are different.”

DB: Trump is supposedly going to sit down with Putin during the G20 meetings. How would you say Putin and the Russians would evaluate Trump’s policy and stance towards Poland? How would that work?

RC: One of the interesting developments that took place just today [July 6], just about 12 hours ago, as a matter of fact, is that Trump officially approved the sale of a Patriot Missile System to Poland. Which indicates Trump’s close ties to our own military industrial complex, and essentially a continuity of a policy that the Obama administration had already started. The Obama administration had already facilitated the delivery of the beginnings of a kind of defense missile system in Poland. So Trump is essentially continuing and expanding upon that policy.

So, that brings me to Putin, because Putin is not happy about that. He’s already indicated that he’s unhappy about this sale. He was unhappy about the expansion of NATO, obviously, to the Russian border. Which in my view, he has every right to be unhappy, because the expansion of NATO is very much an unprovoked expansion. In fact, it was the West that actually expanded NATO before Russia did really much of anything. Trump actually mentioned what Russia is doing in the Ukraine, which fits into a dominant sort of establishment narrative.

Which, I think, brings me back to my first point that there is a tendency to exaggerate the difference between Trump and the establishment. And that certainly is true in some areas. But I think in the case of foreign policy, it’s interesting to see the extent to which Trump has embodied a lot of establishment orthodox, in terms of announcing his support for NATO, announcing his support for further missile protection for Poland, announcing his support for further militarization of Poland in relationship to what’s perceived to be a Russian threat.

DB: And Trump is a… you would say a real strong representative in this context of corporate power in American foreign policy, and military policy?

RC: Yes, I think that’s definitely true. If you look at his campaign, the single biggest benefactor for Trump at a key moment, strategically, in his campaign, when his campaign was really threatening to sort of go off the edge, so to speak, was Robert Mercer, who is a well-known Libertarian multi-billionaire who made his money on the hedge fund circuit.

And this guy, basically, has a radical idea about deconstructing not only the United States government, but deconstructing, as Steve Bannon also puts it, other governments. And participating in a broad sort of alliance with the far-right. Which I think Mercer sees as complementary to wealth accumulation. Because wealth accumulation, from this perspective, comes through stripping the states of assets that are public assets, selling those off to the private sector. Which, of course, the government in Poland certainly endorses this despite their, sort of, nationalist label.

DB: So, I guess you can bet that in one way or another, Putin is going to raise these issues in this meeting with Trump? Or at least hint at what’s in it for the Russians versus this stance.

RC: Exactly. I think Putin certainly liked the fact, it’s been pretty well documented, that Putin hoped that Trump would come into power within the U.S. presidency. But he may have gotten a bit more than he bargained for, in terms of the continuity of U.S. policy.

However, what he also got, which I think he was also counting on, is someone who’s terribly inexperienced, who is not simply a president in the mold of previous presidents, but one who really doesn’t seem to have the first clue about how the office actually operates: how to conduct foreign affairs, or how to read signals from foreign leaders, or how to conduct diplomacy. So, all of these things have to be taught to Trump.

And, basically, from what we’ve seen so far, people are not having much success controlling him and controlling his impulses that brought him to such trouble in certain aspects of the campaign despite the fact that he won the election. So, I think Putin and Trump meeting together is going to be interesting to see.

Trump has been more heavily scripted on recent foreign trips. The Poland speech was effective by his standards, to the extent that he didn’t make any gaffes. And he read from a speech that was very scripted and very polished. So I suspect that we’ll see that same kind of script in his meeting with Putin.

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.

 




The Price that Julian Assange Pays

People who challenge power are often viewed by their supporters as more icons than human beings thus missing the personal costs of their actions, a reality that Julian Assange’s mother revealed to Randy Credico and Dennis J Bernstein.

By Randy Credico and Dennis J Bernstein

June 19 marked the fifth full year that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spent at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he was given asylum against the threat of arrest from a Swedish prosecutor pursuing a sex-abuse investigation (since dropped) and possible extradition to the United States for a potential espionage charge related to publication of U.S. secrets.

To gain insights into what this long ordeal has meant to Assange, an Australian native, Randy Credico of WBAI’s “On the Fly” and Dennis Bernstein of “Flashpoints” on Pacifica Radio interviewed Assange’s mother, Christine Assange. The interview also explored the deep history that led her son to found Wikileaks and to challenge the enormous powers of the U.S. and British governments by exposing the truth about their dangerous, deadly and often illegal policies.

Randy Credico: I guess I should begin by asking, how long has it been since you’ve seen your son Julian?

Christine Assange: A number of years, but we communicate.

RC: Yes, you communicate, but it’s not the same, so far away. It must be difficult. I mean he’s not in prison, but it may as well be prison. I know for a mother to be separated from her son like this, it must be grueling, and a difficult row to hoe on a daily basis.

CA: It is. It’s very hard to put into words this experience that we’re going through over the last seven years. There have been periods where I’ve coped and periods where I haven’t. It tends to go up and down, as I guess Julian does as well. And it’s very hard to communicate with your son when you know that every phone call that you’re making, every text that you’re sending, is being listened to. Or even a letter that you write. You end up feeling that it’s almost useless trying to communicate anything real.

RC: That must really take its toll. So it will be five years [on June 19th]. Five years! Can you believe that he’s been there for five years at this point in time?

CA: No, the idea is horrifying to me actually. I mean we know that he’s been detained for seven years without charge, but five of those have been in the Ecuadorian Embassy [in London], and we thank the people of Ecuador for their protection.

But during those five years, Randy, the U.K. government and the Swedish government have refused all of Julian’s requests for the normal one hour a day of life-giving fresh air, exercise and sunshine. It’s a human right abuse of the grandest order.

Anyone who is involved with rights of refugees around the world should be highlighting his case. Here we are in the Western supposedly free world, interning someone without charge, and then denying them the rights that even people in Third World prisons get, including the right to have medical tests. He had a very bad shoulder with bad chronic pain for years, and they refused to allow him to have an MRI test.

Dennis Bernstein: Let me just ask you this question: do you remember the last time you were able to give your son a nice big hug?

CA: Yes, four years ago.

DB: Could you tell us what you remember about it?

CA: It’s hard keeping up with all the fighting, Dennis. It’s very hard to explain. But I got a big hug when I left. I was only there for a few weeks. I’ve actually got a few things here that I’ve got to look after. But probably the best time I remember him is the one with the picture you’ve got on your show, of me and him with his arm around me. That was when he’d just gotten out of prison, and I’d gone over there to campaign for him.

And we were out in the snow, at about 3 o’clock on the morning, outside of the place that he was staying. And that was with an Australian television crew and we were all Aussies together in that moment. And I was giving him a big hug, and they were cheering, and it was a really good moment. It all feels so far away, and so foreign for us all to be there together. And for me to hold Julian, with his countrymen around giving support, was a really good moment.

DB: And now that we’ve got Julian’s mom on the phone, could you talk a little bit about … the first clue that he was going to be perhaps an interesting person, a troublemaker, or somebody who was really interested in public affairs? How do you remember that beginning?

CA: Well I don’t think there was any one point at which it happened. Julian had always been an incredibly curious child, and always wanted to know why — wanted to know how things worked. And I actually encouraged that in him as a child. He would ask how something would work, and rather than say, this is how it works, I would ask him, how do you think it works?

And then we would explore theories at his age level about how something would work, and he was very turned on by all that. I also read him a lot of books. From the time he was a baby, he was read books every day, from fairy tales, to Greek legends, to the adventure heroic classics — Tarzan, for example, where good was trouncing evil, and there were heroic adventures.

The justice part of it was not to any form of ideology, it was just about showing empathy and fairness in everyday life. So I think all those things together — and he came from a creative background — all that enabled him to sort of explore justice, and the power to change.

Then he wanted to know how the world worked. He wanted to be a physicist because he wanted to get to the bottom of it. And he went to university for physics and was disappointed that most of the job opportunities involved working for the US government, developing weapons, etc., and so he wasn’t very happy with that.

And then the next thing I remember, we were having a discussion about the ills of the world and what could make a change in the world and I asked him, what do you think would lead to a change? And he said he thought there are two possibilities: one was a cataclysmic event that knocked some sense into people because they’d have to really look at their environment.

The other one was technology. And I think Wikileaks was the result of the technology that he saw would change the world.

DB: You said something very interesting: that it wasn’t about grand things, but about fairness in everyday life. Can you think of one of those everyday examples that sort of blossomed into the Julian Assange that we know in terms of his vision now for information?

CA: Well not anything specific in terms of day-to-day life, but just in general with people we were dealing with in the family or with neighbors: we wouldn’t walk past somebody who was lying in the street, for example. If there was someone lying in the street, whether they were drunk or if it was a drug overdose, or if they were sick — we would stop and ask them if they were alright. And Julian would continue that. We were in a situation where we were helping some people involved in a justice situation that had to do with the court system, and Julian was boots and all defending people.

But also when he was a young teenager, he was very into computers. So I bought him a computer, and he went exploring on it, and later on he joined up with some other young people. And there was not a lot available in terms of being challenging and adventuring in the suburbs, but these bright young friends of his were challenging themselves on computers, and one of the ways they were doing it was to what they called “look-see” hacking, which was where they’d break in and they’d look at things, they wouldn’t damage anything, but let people know their system was insecure.

Now, in the process of doing that, I remember during the Gulf War that he got in and had a look, and he told me, “There’s stuff going on here that’s not right, there are people doing things that are not right here, and we’re not being told about it — it’s not coming out in the media.”

And I think that also galvanized him into his concept of Wikileaks, which was basically a concept around really good media. And that is that the media hold the governments and the corporations through, basically the truth, responsible to the people.

RC: He has done an incredible job. We are much better off — we are more knowledgeable about our government’s evil actions around the world, and obviously he’s being penalized for that. First of all, he’s been vilified by these phony allegations. How did you react when these allegations came out of the Swedish government prosecutor’s office?

CA: Well I remember the time exactly. It was about 11 o’clock at night when I got a phone call, and the person didn’t even introduce themselves, they just said, “Mrs. Assange, how does it feel to have your son accused of a double rape?”

And straight from my solar plexus I just said, “He didn’t do it.” Because I know my son, and I know that Julian wouldn’t do it. But then I had to go through the whole process of investigating the case because, to defend him, I had to know exactly what was going on.

And so, like those who defended him with knowledge, we had to troll through all the documents, to find out the basis of the allegations, and then what we found was a complete and utter set up. And that was a horrifying feeling to find out that your son would actually be set up on something as serious as a rape allegation, purely because he published the truth about corrupt power.

DB: Where exactly are you right now?

CA: I’m in Australia.

DB: Oh, you’re in Australia! You’re very far away, but you’re very close to us here, and we’re really appreciating the kind of material that you’re sharing about Julian Assange on this, his fifth year of his being held captive, really you have to say by threats of the United States government, who has a special penchant for hurting whistleblowers.

I’m thinking of this carpenter — this illiterate carpenter — who actually fled from fascist Italy and ended up in fascist Argentina. And he used to spout these phrases, and one of the things he used to say is, “Truth has few friends, and those few are suicides” [Antonio Porchia]. Now that’s a very dark comment, but it does seem, if you think about Julian Assange or other great truth tellers, what was waiting for them was a jail cell, or a bullet. Your thoughts on that — that courage that it takes to go forward?

CA: Well the original truth teller was Jesus Christ, wasn’t he? He was throwing the money changers out of the temple. And now 2,000 years later we’ve got defense contractors, the oil industry and Wall Street. And he said, “And you shall know the truth and it shall set you free.”

And nothing has really changed since then. We still have corrupt power consolidating itself, and really destroying the world, and not working on the behalf of people. And it sort of brings me back to what we should be doing, as people. What should we do? Our leaders let us down again and again. They say they’re going to do something and when they get in power they’re either bad leaders who were leading us on, or they’re good leaders who are under pressure themselves. And they’re fighting each other and name-calling, but it’s still not working, is it?

So I see Wikileaks as a uniting point for everybody — from the Left and the Right and everything in between — uniting around the First Amendment, which is what you call it in America, or the free press around the world, to hold our leaders in the business world and in the government accountable through transparency and truth.

And good leaders are actually supported by Wikileaks because if they are indeed under pressure from the Deep State — for example, supposing we assume that Donald Trump is a good guy, and does want to, as he says, “drain the swamp”, which is the Deep State, then he’s going to need Wikileaks — not just during the campaign, when Wikileaks was wonderful and he loved Wikileaks, but even more so now, when the Deep State is going to try to prevent his campaign.

Now if he’s not in fact a good guy, but a bad guy all along, then of course he’s going to want to suppress Wikileaks. And our assessment of Donald Trump very much hinges on whether he is going to protect Wikileaks and Julian.

DB: We were just speaking with one of the attorneys, Jesselyn Radack, who has worked with Julian Assange, and we were talking about the message that might be being sent now by the very strong crackdown and arrest of the most recent whistleblower coming out of the National Security Agency [Reality Winner]. Does that give you pause or concern that Julian might have a tough row ahead?

CA: Oh, I’ve always known he’s going to have a tough row ahead, you only have to look at the way they’ve treated their own whistleblowers, as you said, in their own CIA and NSA. The Obama administration arrested and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined, so things were certainly not looking good, even before this change of administration.

I’m not talking about Reality Winner. I’m not sure where she’s coming from but, even so, wherever she’s coming from, the protocol should still be the same. And I don’t know if that’s the case. If you are a whistleblower there should be protections for you and then it should be investigated and authenticated. And there should be a transparent legal process, and your rights should be protected during that time period. The reason I say I don’t know where she’s coming from, is because they’ve been talking about so-called leaks about Russians, and all the rest of it, and we know that they’ve been set up, that the Russians didn’t hack the DNC.

They’re going to say that there were leaks and they’re not leaks, but because we don’t know who, that’s the reason why we need to protect all whistleblowers, including her, and why it should go through due process, the same as for any other citizen.

DB: We know that Julian was pretty troubled by the way in which The Intercept blew their source in this context. He seems to have been a lot more careful in his work in terms of protecting sources. I’m wondering if you noted that.

CA: Oh, absolutely. I remember when Wikileaks was being set up, that Julian was saying to me,”We’re going to spend two years with the best minds in the world, to create an anonymous drop box, so that nobody can crack it, because we want to protect our sources. And we want people to feel so comfortable in leaking to us and not to feel frightened that they’re going to be revealed”. So he’s kept to that, even to the risk to his own life and liberty.

Wikileaks has never revealed a source — no source has been exposed by Wikileaks. Chelsea Manning exposed herself on the Internet. And very few other media have been willing to rise to that challenge. So it’s best to leak to Wikileaks if you’re going to leak. It’s a pity that she [Reality Winner] didn’t leak to Wikileaks.

RC: Yes. I must say, he really is a remarkable individual. I am not a techie, but he really knows all of this stuff really well, he’s brilliant, but he comes off so genuine. It’s really amazing to see him on all of these talk shows, on radio — how well he comes off. And he’s got a great sense of humor, he’s got an incredible education, he’s so well-spoken, so dignified when he’s on. Does that amaze you?

CA: Yes… well yes and no… because he’s grown up with me, and I’ve seen him, and he’s always been a refined person. He’s never been a crude person. He’s been an honest person and an empathetic person, and he’s always been very bright, so that he got to where he is on the world stage doesn’t surprise me.

Though of course in another way it does, and I’m in awe of him as well — not in any kind of demigod way, but just as a human being with such resilience and courage, and so strong in the truth. And taking the most incredible amount of attacks, not just from governments and corporations, and what they’re getting up to behind the scenes, but trolls.

I mean the thing that probably hurt me the most when watching him stand up for his work, was seeing other journalists, particularly UK journalists, trolling him on Wikileaks with the most vile, immature, picky, vicious comments. I couldn’t believe that this was coming out of the mouths of so-called journalists! And he’s resilient, and the ability to rise above it is quite awe-inspiring, isn’t it?

DB: And he continues on despite it all. He certainly has a resolve and a focus that borders on super-human. He has not been distracted from the work, in fact he has managed to expand it. It’s sort of a bit of a miracle.

CA: Well, Julian is very grounded. His convictions come out of critical analysis, they don’t come out of an easy path of jumping on some ideological bandwagon, so that when the going gets tough, he’s grounded in where he’s coming from. Because he drove himself, he’s not easily shaken by attacks, by ideological attacks, for example, or personal attacks. I think they’ve called him every “ist” there is –narcissist, racist, marxist, capitalist — and on and on it goes. But he knows that the reason he’s doing this is about media truth and justice, and government transparency, and he’s grounded in that reality, and that’s why he’s not so easily shaken.

RC: He is the most fearless individual. I mean he’s got the entire Intelligence Community, the Military Community [against him] — not just here in the U.S. but in Britain — even your own government.

What is your own government doing to protect one of their citizens? Under Prime Minister Turnbull?

CA: They’ve never done anything under any of them! The Labor government under Julia Gillard called what he did illegal and wanted to take his passport away, and she actually said she was quite happy to hand him over to the U.S. and change our extradition laws specifically to make it easier for him to be handed over.

Basically we don’t have a real government, we’ve got a puppet government — it’s just a U.S. puppet, and they’re constantly auditioning through the US Embassy for a place in the spotlight. Prime Minister Turnbull was an ex-Director of Goldman Sachs Australia. Not sure if you’re familiar with the term “government sets”? That’s where big US banks put their people in governments around the world.

So basically it would appear that in the Australian political landscape, if you want a promotion, you will swear on your credentials that you’re willing to tow the line on Assange.

DB: And finally, we’ve got Julian’s mom here, and I have to end this way — forgive me, Mom, but what are you most proud of in terms of your son? What part of his actions, his work, makes you the most proud as his mom?

CA: That he’s standing ethically in truth for justice, with courage. That he’s willing to risk his life and his liberty for his fellow man, basically. And that’s what he’s doing — he’s risking his health, his liberty and even his life, because we’ve heard all the horrible stuff coming out of various commentators: things like “We’re gonna shoot the son of a bitch” coming from Bob Beckel, a Democratic strategist.

And all the horrible things that Mike Pompeo said about him being a demon and “an unsafe intelligence actor.” And nonsense stuff about him being involved in child pornography from both sides, trying to set him up. I mean most people would have fallen over by now. But I think that because Julian is standing for something that’s good and right and correct, I think that’s where he derives his strength.

RC: He does have a lot of support, and I’ve been getting a lot of support from his supporters for this show, on Twitter and social media.

[…] What can people do? What do you recommend people do to help out Julian?

CA: […] Some of the American supporters have been very busy lately. They’ve organized the Boycott UK and it’s under the hashtag #BoycottUK and also the hashtag #FreeAssangeNOW .

This is a very good idea because we all know that money makes the world go round and in fact some are saying that a lot of the opposition to Julian is from greedy corporations because he exposes things like some of the reasons for war, and some of them profit from defense contracts. They also know that by reducing profits for major corporations, they will lean on government to change their policy. So boycotting big UK businesses until they free Julian — all big businesses that are operating in the UK.

Another California supporter …  has put up a campaign called “5 dollars for 5 years” and that is about how Julian spent five years in the Ecuadorian Embassy giving the truth, fighting for us, for our right to know. How about if we donate five dollars — a dollar for each year that he spent there? And that will go to top up the Julian Assange Defense fund which is at justice4assange.com. And you can donate your five dollars there.

Also on that site there’s a lot of information — it’s the best site in the world for finding out the facts about what’s been happening to Julian Assange for the last seven years. And let me tell you, it reads like The Bourne Conspiracy — what the government’s been up to to try to shut my son up is criminal and unbelievable.

So, just in America, just these last few weeks, American citizens have been standing up to fight.

But what you’re doing is also incredibly important, Randy. We find that when people are apprised of the facts about Wikileaks, and the facts about Julian, that most come onboard to support him, and some even come onboard as very active supporters. So it’s about getting out the facts, because there’s an awful lot of propaganda and lies. But once people know the facts they are supportive, so that’s also very important that people talk to each other about the facts, find out the facts. And there’s a very good FAQ at justice4assange.com.

So getting out the facts is really important, boycotting is very important, and funding Julian and funding Wikileaks is also important. We often feel very alone and powerless in the world at the moment, but we do have two things that we can still do.

One thing is where we spend our consumer dollar. It might only be five dollars, but if a million people donate five dollars, that’s really putting Julian and Wikileaks in a strong position to fight.

The other thing is the vote: keep your politician on speed dial and yank his or her chain every so often to remind them that we actually pay their wages, and we expect them to stand up for truth and government accountability, we expect them to not get in bed with corruption, and we are not impressed with them persecuting truth-telling media.

So there are just three things you can do straightaway. And of course you can always form your own Free Assange group — it can be a group of one or two or more. And this is what some ladies have done in America and around the world — nice people who have formed Free Assange groups. They are just ordinary people — they’re not actually highly political people, they’re often mothers who want to see the world protected for their children, and they often have no political experience, but a lot of heart and drive and creativity. And they often make the best advocates.

RC: Well, Ms. Christine Assange, I really appreciate you being part of this show. You are welcome back anytime. You are really doing an incredible job on behalf of your son, who is a hero. And I would like to give you the last word. If there’s something you want to convey to Julian and his supporters there in London, I’m going to give you the last word.

CA: Well, firstly, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to all the supporters around the world who have stood up and fought to protect and defend Wikileaks and Julian. Sometimes you’ve only done one action, sometimes you’ve done more — it doesn’t matter, you did something.

The people in London at the Ecuadorian Embassy have just been troopers. Both Ecuador and its embassy staff and the people of Ecuador and the people from the Julian Assange Defense Fund and Wise Up Action — those guys who stood outside that embassy, day-in, day-out — in the rain, hail, snow and sun — to support my son and protect him. And at one stage, when they tried to raid the embassy illegally and grab Julian, these people were his protectors. And I would encourage anybody who is visiting London anytime to drop into the embassy and stand outside the embassy and join these historic groups.

Show Julian that you care. Show the powers that be that the people care and they’re not going away. Wikileaks, after all, is supplied by the people, with information for the people, for their protection. It’s 100% funded by the people, and it’s defended and protected by the people, including our lawyers. This is a people’s publisher, and it just goes to show you what the people can achieve when they get together. Wikileaks is rocking the halls of power, and they’re terrified. And they have come back as bad as IS [Islamic State] terrorists against the truth, but the people are standing firm.

And to my son, I love you, I’m still here, I’m still fighting, I’m incredibly proud of your work. You’re a terrific human being, and we’re all standing here and we will keep fighting until we get you out of there.

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.




Business Group Fawns Over Trump

Many U.S. business groups groused about President Obama even as their companies thrived but are lavishing praise on President Trump despite doubts over his first four months, notes Barbara Koeppel.

By Barbara Koeppel

We’ve heard a lot about fake news. What about fake ads? Surely they deserve the “Pinocchio” reality check.

Let’s start with the April 29 full-page Washington Post ad run by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) applauding President Trump for his first 100 days. The organization hailed the trumpeter in chief for his accomplishments and hoped for more of the same.

“Thank you President Trump, for 100 days of progress,” the ad cheered. The problem is, most of the triumphs the ad touts are dubious. For example, it opens with a whopper. “You’ve promoted investment and created jobs.”

Well, yes and no. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 93,000 fewer new jobs were created from February to April 2017 (522,000), under the Trump reign, than over the same months in 2016 (615,000) under President Obama.

As for new investment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, gross private domestic investment in the first quarter of 2017 (adjusted for inflation and seasonal variations) was up 1.7 percent from the fourth quarter 2016 — not much to brag about.

Next, NAM’s ad gushed about the two pipelines (Dakota Access and Keystone XL) the President OK’d. While Trump claimed Keystone will create 28,000 jobs when completed, the State Department put the number a tad lower, at 35 or 50.

According to NAM, the job-creator-in-chief will rescue American manufacturers by reducing “the job-crushing regulatory burden,” “the red tape,” “the overreaching EPA and unfair labor regulations,” “the oppressive rules that obstructed energy development and prevented American independence.” And if that wasn’t enough, he’ll roll back “harmful Obamacare mandates.” Wow!

So, which manufacturers have suffered under such ruinous rules?

Not Emerson Electric Co., of which NAM’s chairman, David Farr, is CEO: In fact, its 2016 global sales were $14.5 billion. Boasting about its numbers, Emerson’s online blurbs claim it’s “one of a handful of companies with 60 consecutive years or more of increasing dividends to its shareholders.”

Not FLUOR Corp., of which NAM’s vice chair, David Seaton, is CEO: One of the world’s largest engineering corporations, FLUOR’s 2016 revenues rose to $19 billion, up from $18 billion in 2015.

Not the firms represented on NAM’s Executive Committee. For example, Pfizer earned $52.8 billion. Ingersoll Rand’s sales and revenues rose to $13.5 billion. Fresenius Medical Care Services 2016 revenues soared 7 percent over 2015, to $17.9 billion. And Cargill Inc.’s 2016 revenues were a whopping $107 billion.

Even ExxonMobil, whose 2016 earnings were down to $7.8 billion, reported this was due to “sharply lower commodity prices, upstream” — not ruthless regulations. We are relieved to note that with $7.8 billion in revenue, ExxonMobil is not yet out of business.

Interestingly, most of the rules or acts that NAM says Trump reversed are those which hadn’t yet taken effect (not “overturned” as the ad claims). But a few were already in motion and the Trump/congressional changes will be big. For example, this past February and March, Trump and Congress killed the 2016 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule that required firms applying for government contracts to report cases in which they violated federal laws in the past — say, on wages, safety, health, collective bargaining and civil rights.

According to Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, the rule was designed to ensure that workers are protected and that billions of dollars in federal contracts are no longer awarded to companies with a record of violations.

Trump also overturned a 2015 Environmental Protection Agency rule designed to stop firms from dumping toxic waste into waterways. While it will take some time for the new order to take effect, it’s official.

As a non-NAM member, it’s hard to see why polluting waterways is a plus, though industries have long resented any government intrusions. They might also be hit with the cleanup bill down the road — although to be fair, they might not, since the tab is often picked up by taxpayers. Score one for industry.

The ad ends with a rapturous crescendo: “And you’re just getting started. The 12 million men and women who make things in America stand with you to renew the American Spirit.” Good job, Donald!

Is it possible that even a few of those who “make things” will not cheer? If they don’t, NAM might suggest these employees — whose salaries, benefits, work conditions, health and quality of life will surely deteriorate — eat some American pie. (Cake, after all, is for the French.) Good job, NAM!

Barbara Koeppel is a freelance investigative reporter based in Washington, D.C. [This article first appeared at Truthdig at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/fake_ads_in_the_time_of_trump_20170524 ]




Tillerson’s Bad Hand in Kremlin Showdown

President Trump’s hasty decision to attack Syria may have lightened political pressure at home but Russia’s retaliation – suspending a key “deconfliction agreement” – left Secretary of State Tillerson as supplicant at the Kremlin, reports Gilbert Doctorow.

By Gilbert Doctorow

The Russian media offered no complete account of what may have been accomplished during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s two-day visit to Russia, but there were hints of what the Russian negotiating position would have been behind closed doors and what may have justified Vladimir Putin making two hours available for Tillerson in what was otherwise a very busy day for the Russian President relating to domestic concerns.

Before Tillerson’s arrival Russian media reported widely on his failure the day before at the G7 meeting to win support for imposing more sanctions on Russia for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of the chemical weapons event in Idlib on April 4. That proposal was raised by U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and affirmed by Tillerson but rejected by all other G7 members. With that resounding defeat, Tillerson had no sticks from “the international community” to wield as an ultimatum against the Russians, telling them to get behind a U.S.-imposed “regime change” in Syria or suffer the consequences of further economic isolation from the West.

Tillerson also carried little in the way of carrots, given President Trump’s retreat on his campaign pledges to improve relations with Russia. Tillerson’s empty diplomatic bag was a topic discussed on Russian prime-time television the evening before his arrival. Senior Duma member and United Russia Party leader Vyacheslav Nikonov rhetorically demanded of Tillerson on the Evening with Vladimir Solovyov talk show: “So, make us an offer of what it means to go with America, what it brings us, and then we will consider it.”

In effect, Nikonov was calling the Trump administration’s bluff. He and the Russian elites understand perfectly that Donald Trump has no political capital to spend to get Congressional approval of normalized relations with Russia.

Just as the Tillerson-Putin meeting was taking place on Wednesday, another widely watched Russian talk show First Studio on the Pervy Kanal state channel opened with host Artyom Sheinin  posing a baiting question to the American journalist Michael Bohm, a frequent visitor to the program who is often used as a punching bag. Referring to Tillerson’s initial meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the doubt that Putin would grant Tillerson a meeting, Sheinin said, “I believe there is the practice in big corporations for a new visitor who has come to see the boss to first undergo a ‘screening interview.’ It looks as if Tillerson passed this screening process and so he was allowed in to speak to the boss. Do you think this was a positive thing?”

In other words, the Russians knew that Tillerson came with empty hands and that he was the suitor, not the one being wooed. Tillerson came to discuss reinstatement of the Memorandum of Understanding on Deconfliction in Syria because on the U.S. side there was great concern over Russia’s refusal now to speak at the regional level to U.S. military counterparts and avert clashes on the ground and in the air that could lead to escalation of confrontation and possibly to all-out-war. The Russian withdrawal from the deconfliction arrangement following the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airfield on April 6 put the continuation of U.S.-led military operations against Islamic State militants inside Syria in danger.

On April 8, senior Pentagon officials were denying that the Russians had severed all military-to-military hot lines, but there was a cold sweat in Washington. The uncertainty over whether Syrian and Russian air defenses might take aim at NATO aircraft had already led the Belgians to publicly announce cessation of all their flights within the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition. Presumably other NATO members had come to the same conclusion.

Meanwhile, my information backchannels indicate that the Russians set down their preconditions for reinstatement of the deconfliction arrangements: no further U.S. air attacks on Syrian government positions. We may be sure that this was the major subject for discussion and possible agreement during Tillerson’s talks with Putin.

The result may be something similar to the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when the U.S. claimed victory publicly as the Soviets pulled their missiles out of Cuba, but privately the U.S. had granted what Moscow had wanted, the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. But Putin is no Nikita Khrushchev, who lost prestige among his Kremlin peers for striking the agreement with the Americans; Putin is likely to gain stature from such an arrangement.

The U.S. Media’s Take

Meanwhile, the mainstream U.S. media presented the Putin-Tillerson meeting in relatively neutral terms given the American press corps general hostility to all things Russian. The Washington Post did better than other media outlets, with Moscow Bureau Chief David Filipov and his colleague covering the State Department in Washington highlighting the undeniable fact that the parties were “sharply at odds” and noting:

“Russia made it clear it was unwilling to roll back its strategic alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The talks appeared unlikely to bring any significant breakthroughs after last week’s missile strike plunged U.S. relations to one of the lowest points since the Cold War. But despite the growing rifts, some general compromises were discussed.”

The areas of potential compromise were possible reinstatement of the information-sharing “deconfliction” Memorandum of Understanding with the United States that the Russians suspended immediately after the April 6 missile attack and creation of a U.S.-Russian working group to find ways to ease tensions between the two nuclear superpowers.

After that, the authors moved on to more trivial pursuits such as Donald Trump’s latest remarks about Assad being “an animal.” However, even amidst this swill there were a few points worthy of note because they gave expression to Russian policy positions at the talks: Russia’s refusal to accept ultimatums, such as Tillerson brought with him over choosing ties with the U.S. or Syria; Russia’s rejection of the allegations that Assad was behind the chemical attack in Idlib; Russia’s call for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate the use of chemical weapons there; and Putin’s likening the present situation to the one immediately preceding the U.S. invasion of Iraq. All of these important points are presented in the article at face value, alongside U.S., U.K. and other Western accusations directed against Russia

The New York Times coverage gave more attention to American action than to Russian reaction, as the opening of its cover headline for its several related articles indicates: “U.S. Pressures Russia …” The sub-article dealing with the Tillerson visit devotes more attention to what came before and after Putin’s meeting with Tillerson than to what they may have agreed on. The Times bureau chief David Sanger noted how Tillerson was held in suspense as his anticipated meeting with Putin was left in doubt until the last minute, what was described as a typical maneuver by the Russian president to keep his interlocutors off balance, a characterization which ignores the widely reported urgings of Russia’s talking heads before Tillerson’s arrival that their President not receive him because of the objectionable message on Syria that he had laid out on Monday at the meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Italy.

Indeed, the Times article said almost nothing about what may have justified the Putin meeting and what was agreed other than the working group to ease tensions, which Sanger correctly identifies as devoted to small and not the big divisive issues.

Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015