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

California Resists Trump on Immigration

President Trump’s crackdown on America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is raising alarm among that community but faces its stiffest resistance in California where leaders vow defiance, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

California Governor Jerry Brown departed in this year’s State of the State speech from the traditional practice of listing key issues and restating the panoply of the administration’s priorities for the coming year. Instead, Brown discussed the “broader context of our country and its challenges.”

Brown reminded President Trump of the importance of California’s economy in the scheme of things. “This is California,” said the Governor, “the sixth most powerful economy in the world. One out of every eight Americans lives right here and 27 percent – almost 11 million – were born in a foreign land. When California does well, America does well. And when California hurts, America hurts.”

Brown continued, “A few moments ago, I swore into office our new attorney general [Xavier Becerra]. Like so many others, he is the son of immigrants who saw California as a place where, through grit and determination, they could realize their dreams. And they are not alone, millions of Californians have come here from Mexico and a hundred other countries, making our state what it is today: vibrant, even turbulent, and a beacon of hope to the rest of the world.”

“So as we reflect on the state of our state,” Brown concluded, “let me be clear: we will defend everybody – every man, woman and child – who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state.”

There has been a flurry of activity in the California State legislature that echoes Brown’s defiant talk about holding the line against Trump on immigration. There are bills pending now that deal with immigration at all levels, from creating a special legal office to protect undocumented workers facing deportation to extending Sanctuary in California to cover the entire state. Most recently introduced is California Senate Bill SB-31, the California Religious Freedom Act.

The California Religious Freedom Act “would prohibit a state or local agency or a public employee, acting under color of law from providing or disclosing to the federal government personally identifiable information regarding a person’s religious beliefs or practices, national origin, or ethnicity for law enforcement or immigration purposes.”

The bill would also “prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from collecting personally identifiable information on the religious beliefs, practices, or affiliation of any individual, except as part of a targeted investigation, or where necessary to provide religious accommodations.”

I spoke with California State Senator Ricardo Lara, who introduced the bill and is concerned about the creation of a national registry or database “based solely on religious beliefs or affiliation.”

Dennis Bernstein: I want to begin with your … gut overview of what you see happening, the way these presidential directives are signed, the way this was rolled out. Give us a sense of what’s going on in your mind and how this reverberates in your community.

Ricardo Lara: Well, we’re very concerned that this president continues to vilify and seek to scapegoat various communities throughout our country, which only perpetuates his goal of dividing us as a nation. And so, as a California elected official, it’s important that not only do we demonstrate that we’re going to fight back, and we’re going to fight for the rights of all Americans, and Californians, but that we demonstrate that we’re better than that. That this is really not what America is about.

And so, it’s very troubling. It puts us in a defensive position here in California. But, we’re also going to continue to push on those progressive policies that have made California the fifth [correction: sixth] largest economy in the world.

DB: And California is definitely … on the front line, is setting the example, is really drawing the line, in terms of what people are willing to do. This is in the context of so many things going on in the public agencies, as sanctuary cities. You want to talk a little bit more about that kind of uprising of resistance?

RL: Absolutely. We have committed, in the state legislature, that we are going to do everything we can to fight these divisive policies, and we’re going to protect our sanctuary cities, and, in a sense, create the sanctuary state. That is the state of California.

So, the executive orders that have come down from the president are still going to need congressional action. So we have some time to kind of decipher what method we’re going to use to fight, either in the courts or in the legislature, through policy making. But right now these are his policy statements, and directives. We’re still going to have to wait for Congress to act on a majority of these things.

And so, for local elected officials, who are living in sanctuary cities, or have declared their cities sanctuary, we have some time to strategize. And so, again, he’s being bold in his policy directives. He’s again being bombastic about what he wants to do. And so, we want to, we’re taking a step back and looking at what our options are to defend ourselves.

DB: Well, as a way to get into what’s going on in terms of SB-31 here in California … are you getting reports, feedback from community, your supporters, the people who bring you to office, about an upsurge in attacks, if you will, in the age of Trump? Is there more going on? Is there more fear reverberating?

RL: Well, definitely, we’ve heard people express concern, and fear, in particular with our immigrant communities in my district, and throughout the state. And rightfully so, right? I mean, these are outright attacks on communities, and specific members of our communities, and so, rightfully, they are concerned.

And I think, for us, it’s important that not only we demonstrate that we support our immigrant communities, we support our diversity, but that we’re also demonstrating that we’re going to do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable communities which include our immigrants.

DB: Now, it is true that California has always been on the cutting edge of issues like this. And the human rights issues that have to do with, I guess, the people who do the hardest work, and get abused for it, still, in this country. And now, under Trump, in a more focused way. Now, you have been working on Senate Bill 31 which is one way of combating what we’ve been talking about. Could you lay out what exactly that is, and what you’re trying to legislate here?

RL: Absolutely. Currently we’ve heard the president talk about this creation of a Muslim database, right? And so, what we’re doing here in California, we’re preempting any state agency from collecting this data based on religious affiliation, and also insuring that a registry of this nature cannot be compiled using our state resources. So, it’s a way for us to not only prevent local and state agencies from disclosing this personal information, but clearly this is something that we have to lead.

There should be no lists of registries of individuals based on religion, ethnicity, or nation of origin. We know what happens when we start putting people on lists, separating them, and history tends to repeat itself. And it clearly… this president has no idea of just the connotation, of what he’s trying to do here, and what this is leading us towards.

And so, I think it’s important for California, again, to do that. And California is a place where we honor our diversity, and we honor, most importantly, our religious freedom. And so, this bill is important for us to not allow a California Muslim registry to happen, not now or ever.

DB: Now, we know that Kris Kobach, I believe he’s the Secretary of State of Kansas, is a key advisor to the Trump administration, and behind the scenes is trying to interweave a national registry, in terms of what you’re talking about. So, I imagine here is a chance for your bill, and for California, to be on the cutting edge, to set an example of what has to happen.

RL: Exactly. And given the fact that California has… we are the most diverse state with the most immigrant population. Securing our data, and ensuring that we protect people’s’ identity, here, would be a big… a large portion of that immigrant population that they’re trying to identify.

DB: And there … has been a formal registration or legislation created to enforce this kind of government policy. I guess it’s the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System. Is that … at the heart of the matter here?

RL: Yeah. It’s called NSEERS, and it was created after September 11th, and it clearly demonstrated, now which is currently defunct, it was used to target mostly Arab and Muslim men, across the nation. And the program… of course, is disproportionately focused on Arabs and Muslims.

And it caused really widespread fear within those communities. And it undermined the trust of law enforcement, and needlessly punished immigrants, regardless of whether or not they were suspected of any criminal activities. … My understanding is that list is no longer in place, and it really didn’t do anything to prevent any terrorists attacks… in the United States.

DB: But it caused a lot of suffering, I mean from the information, I guess, coming out of your office, they managed to register some 80,000 people, 13,000 people were placed in deportation proceedings based on technical visa violations. That sounds pretty cruel.

RL: Right. Absolutely. Not only is it cruel, it’s unjust and it’s anti-American.

DB: I guess there’s a great deal of fear at every level, particularly if you are undocumented, but even if you’re not, even if you’re just a brown person, there’s been an upsurge, there’s been a struggle going on. I’m wondering … what the chances are of this getting passed. And have you heard from the governor? Is there any feedback, any indication that this kind of important protection, legislation at the state level will get through, and will get support?

RL: Well, we’re early in the legislative process. And so it just cleared its first committee yesterday. We’ve received bipartisan support, some Republicans have indicated that they’re going to support the measure, and actually voted for it. So, again, we are looking to build a strong coalition that is going to help us move this policy forward, and hopefully getting it signed by the governor.

DB: And, finally, have you been meeting… are there discussions taking place now within the legislature in terms of how California is going to deal with… this is a more general question… how California is going to deal with these threats, and if Trump moves forward to cut off California, based on its strong support, its sanctuary cities, its decisions to support the immigrant population, to support all people of California. Are there plans? Is this a part of what’s going on now?

RL: Absolutely. There’s a couple strategies that we’re kinda talking about. One is to really secure the data that we have, of the programs where we currently are supporting our undocumented community. That’s first and foremost important.

Second is to ensure that we push back, through various levels, any efforts that are going to harm the economy of California because, quite frankly, why California matters to the rest of the state [nation] is that we’re a significant contributor to the federal government. And we’re also a significant part of the United States’ economy. So, by hurting California, and by creating economic instability here, you are actually harming a lot of these families in red states.

The fact is that, if you harm us economically and endanger our agricultural community… we feed 50% of the country. How is that going to impact some of the constituents across the country? And so, congressional members might feel that “Yes, we, California, we do things on our own”… but we’re inextricably linked with the economy of the United States. So, this form of potential domestic terrorism against us as Californians from the federal government is only going to hurt the country as a whole.

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.

Thanking Trump for Killing TPP?

Progressives have long called for the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership but many are holding their applause now that President Trump was the one who killed it, observes anti-war activist John V. Walsh.

By John V. Walsh

President Trump wasted little time living up to his promise to drive a stake through the heart of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the economic piece of the “Pivot to Asia,” a provocative challenge to China that was vigorously promoted by neocons and liberal interventionists, as well as President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (until she turned against the deal during the campaign).

TPP was a trade agreement that linked 12 Pacific Rim nations but pointedly excluded China in an effort to isolate and weaken it. Thus in his first week in office Trump has made a substantive move away from confrontation with China – and the overall goal of U.S. global domination.

While you might expect that such a move would elicit support and congratulations from foes of war and empire, so far there has not been much of that.

While it’s true that Trump had attacked TPP during the campaign – so his move was expected – he might well have revived it if he wanted to please corporate America and the neocons. After all, Republicans hold majorities in the House and Senate – and there are many Democrats pining to please their corporate donors who have sought to resuscitate TPP. But Trump did not do this.

Trump’s first week in office also advanced his promised détente with Russia as Sen. Marco Rubio grudgingly announced he would vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as Trump’s Secretary of State, giving Tillerson the support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a party-line 11-10 vote.

Exxon-Mobil CEO Tillerson has had friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has a clear understanding of Russia. Because he has not joined in the recent Russia-bashing, Tillerson has been the target of the neocons who hoped to stop him.

Rubio tried to pressure him into declaring Putin a “war criminal” during the confirmation hearings, something that Tillerson refused to do. Like Trump, Tillerson does not seem like the kind of person who is easily pushed around.

The Hated TPP

Regarding TPP, it was opposed by many progressives and labor leaders for reasons other than a desire for peace. For many labor leaders, it was seen as one more trade deal that would encourage the export of American manufacturing jobs and thus depress domestic wages even more. Progressive activists saw it as an attack on democracy and sovereignty, written in secret and designed to give corporations and banks control over the terms of trade and laws of the land.

Democratic Party progressives opposed TPP vehemently, and so it would make sense for them to hail Trump’s action. But look at the comments at that bastion of conformist progressivism, the HuffPost, and you will find that many progressives have abruptly switched and are opposing Trump and even praising TPP.

Still, there are a few commenters at least honest enough to admit the hypocrisy behind the switch.

One HuffPost commenter wrote: “OK, when Bernie [Sanders] was talking about how bad the TPP was almost every comment here [on Huffington Post] was how they didn’t trust Hillary to get us out of the TPP. Now that Trump pulled us out, people are taking the opposite view. … At least admit that this is a good thing. Does it matter who stops TPP? 9 months ago we all agreed it was a bad thing.”

This stance is all too reminiscent of Democratic “progressives” who were out in force opposing the war on Iraq under George W. Bush but were nowhere to be seen when Barack Obama came into office and continued the war.

To his credit, Sen. Sanders announced his pleasure with Trump’s deep-sixing TPP, according to the Guardian, which reported: “Sanders praised Trump’s decision, saying TPP is ‘dead and gone’… ‘If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.’”

Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, also praised the termination of TPP, but unlike Sanders he did not mention Trump by name, which is not surprising since most labor leaders did not back Sanders and instead threw their financial and political support behind Clinton, who only broke with TPP when she realized that it might cost her the Democratic nomination.

Sanders’s and Trumka’s objections to TPP are primarily economic, the concerns usually reported in the mainstream media. But the neocons and liberal hawks understood TPP’s imperial aspects, as explained by neocon Sen. John McCain.

As reported by the Guardian, “Senator John McCain criticized the move. ‘President Trump’s decision to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for the American economy and our strategic position in the Asia Pacific region,’ he said.” (Emphasis added)

In East Asia, TPP has been running into troubles as well, with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and possibly even South Korea moving toward closer ties with China and away from U.S.-promoted strife between China and its neighbors.

Trump’s position – and the recent actions of East Asian countries – may be manifestations of a less confrontational approach toward the world and a new balance of power taking shape. From that point of view, President Trump, by rejecting TPP, is simply moving to negotiate the best deal possible for the U.S. in this new developing global arrangement.

The question for liberals/progressives is will they reflexively oppose Trump on everything he does or will they support what is desirable and criticize what is not. That question will come to the fore soon if Trump and Tillerson manage to fashion Détente 2.0 with Russia.

The War Party, both its neocon and liberal interventionist wings, will fiercely oppose any reduction of tensions with Russia. When that happens, will liberals/progressives support Détente 2.0 – even though it comes from Donald Trump – or will they rally behind the neocons and liberal hawks in their desire for Cold War 2.0?

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com .

The Fake News About Fake News

The Washington Post’s McCarthyistic conspiracy theory implicating some 200 Web sites in an alleged Russian propaganda network continues to spread across mainstream media despite being debunked, as in Patrick Henningsen’s report.

By Patrick Henningsen

The mainstream media’s post-election hysteria has taken on new level of crazy. It seems that The Washington Post has gone off the deep end this past week, claiming that Russia is behind the “fake news” crisis which they claim helped propel an insurgent Donald Trump to victory on Nov. 8, and they are still standing by the official conspiracy theory that Russia has somehow hacked into the U.S. elections. Everything that’s wrong with the establishment media is contained within this incredible story…

The hacking claim is nothing new – backed by the White House and trumpeted by Hillary Clinton, the U.S. mainstream media has claimed that Russia has been hacking and manipulating our U.S. elections. The only problem is it never happened. What’s more disturbing though, is the complete collapse in journalistic standards at what used to be considered ‘America’s paper of record.’

It seems the The Post is playing a key role in waging a new McCarthy-style witch hunt targeting any independent websites which dare to challenge the prevailing anti-Russian party line currently dominating the mainstream political and media establishment – evident beyond any doubt after reading this latest feature in The Washington Post written by Craig Timberg entitled, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, Experts say.

“Experts say”? Make no mistake, this was a true-to-form propaganda piece by the Washington Post, and in itself could be classed as actual “fake news.”

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to debunk this article. I take no pleasure in saying this, as The Post was once a newspaper I admired growing up, however, what’s going on right now with America’s mainstream media is nothing short of tragic. More than anything, the 2016 Election showed the world how biased, corrupt and broken America’s papers of record have become. Instead of emulating Woodward and Bernstein, it seems most of  the ‘journalists’ are channeling Stephen Glass instead. For those who don’t know already, Glass was one of Washington’s fake news pioneers of note, writing for the leftwing magazine, New RepublicGlass routinely madeup news stories which his journalism school-trained editors weren’t smart enough to pick up on.

It’s clear that the same partisan Clinton and Democratic Party supporters embedded in the media who were pushing anti-Russian talking points throughout the election cycle – are not giving up. As I pointed out in my pre-election piece entitled, “Hillary’s ‘Russian Hack’ Hoax: The Biggest Lie of this Election Season,” what was previously a stance reserved for right-wing neoconservative hawks and Cold War hold-outs has become the new standard for the establishment wing of the Democratic Party – which is the universal demonization of Russia, and the hitlerization of its current president, Vladimir Putin.

The mainstream media continues to lower the bar on what it claims is ‘journalism’.  Just when you thought you’ve seen the worst, unsourced, completely contrived “investigation,” the Washington Post, which used to be regarded as the paragon of American journalism, has produced a rant of an article that is written as if it were a student submission:

“The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.”

You have to feel bad for The Post’s Craig Timberg who seems to have drawn the short straw this week in the anti-Russia propaganda pool at the Post.  According to his biography at the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford, Timberg’s primary mission is, “studying potential revenue sources and business opportunities related to foreign news coverage, which he fears is under particular threat from digital disruption of the news industry.” The perfect man for the job.

His Thanksgiving Day exposé posits a unified theory of a Trump-Putin axis of evil – an all of the above, buckshot blog post pushed out by the Washington Post (amazing) where Timberg claims The Russians are not only behind the US establishment’s latest “fake news” hysteria, but also hacking both the DNC and the US elections, and carrying Donald Trump into the White House.

To support his case, Timberg claims that:

“Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House.”

So The Post claims that the Russians hacked the DNC and US elections systems, engineered Facebook’s ‘fake news’ crisis, which helped get Trump elected. In order to weave all three of these things together, Timberg had to rely on the mainstream media’s propaganda weapon of choice: anonymous sources. After that, it was just a case of plugging-in and hyperlinking to previous Washington Post headlines made to look as if these events actually happened, when no evidence exists to date that they ever did:

U.S. government officially accuses Russia of hacking campaign to interfere with elections”? (By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Oct 7, 2016)

This story was used to great effect by Hillary Clinton herself on national TV during the Presidential debates. The headline is written to give the false impression there was actual proof to back up such profound accusations, but when you actually read the article, there is nothing. It seems that in today’s Washington Post, what passes for evidence can be as little as the President accusing Russia of being involved.

The statement from the vaunted ‘intelligence community’ is about as vague as it gets, stating, “The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,” said a joint statement from the two agencies. “… These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” No proof, no evidence, but… they are “confident”.  This must be the same sort of confidence these same intelligence agencies had when they briefed Colin Powell about Saddam Hussein’s mobile anthrax labs, aka The Winnebagos of Death. Sounds crazy, I know, but it was good enough for the mainstream media in 2002-2003, just like “we are confident” is good enough for the Washington Post today.

Russian hackers targeted Arizona election system” (By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Aug 29, 2016)

Despite the misleading headline, the article does not contain any evidence or anything remotely near ‘proof’ by any normal journalistic standards. But this is not normal journalism. After reading past the colorful headline in the Arizona Russian Hack story, it gets really vague, claiming the FBI’s theory that ‘Russia did it’ was, “credible” and significant, “an eight on a scale of one to 10.” It’s hard not to laugh when reading some of these mainstream stories. It gets better, saying that, “FBI investigators did not specify whether the hackers were criminals or employed by the Russian government. Bureau officials on Monday declined to comment…”  What else is this but Washington-based, politically motivated propaganda, designed to scapegoat Russia?

By definition, Timberg is using actual fake and misleading news articles (produced by his employer the Washington Post) in order to validate his own unified conspiracy theory. It’s hard to tell if Timberg himself is even aware of what he’s doing. If not, certainly an argument can be made for mainstream ‘journalists’ who are so ensconced in their own corporate bubble that they actually believe their own organization’s propaganda.

Despite the best efforts of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, the White House and mainstream media outlets like CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, the New York Times and countless other outlets, all of whom either endorsed Hillary Clinton or tailored their news coverage to favor her campaign – with many even colluding directly with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), there is zero evidence to validate the establishment’s epic Conspiracy Theory that the Kremlin master-minded the greatest election heist in modern times.


Deep Throat: The Washington Post’s Secret ‘Source’

Timberg claims to have a mysterious deep throat ‘source’: “researchers” from a group called PropOrNot, a website which just sprung up on October 30, 2016, and who claims to have “proof” that ties together ‘Fake News’/‘Pro-Trump’ articles online – back to Russia. The only problem is, he can’t show us any of their research, nor can he tell us the name of the principal, allegedly because this person fears threats of retribution.  Timberg states, “The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers. When you hear things like this in the mainstream media, there is a high probability you are reading an actual government-sponsored propaganda piece.

More likely, the only fear PropOrNot’s authors have is of being held accountable for their own online smear and propaganda campaign.

PropOrNot’s web domain registration is also hidden behind “Domains By Proxy,” a company in Scottsdale Arizona.

Timberg’s ‘source’ is a nameless website, with no author names given, with links to “Boycott Russia Today,” and yet, PropOrNot claims to be “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds,” and Timberg says they plan to release their findings on Friday “showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”

“… (PropOrNot) planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns,” stated Timberg.

The much anticipated groundbreaking report arrived belatedly and can be found online here and in PDF here. On first glance, it’s much worse than we thought, but our analysis is still forthcoming.

Thus far the only ‘investigation’ PropOrNot has done was an article implicating the financial news site Zero Hedge posted on Oct 31st and can be found here – a unintelligible mix of websites, speculating that they are somehow linked and in league with the Kremlin. It claims its thesis is corroborated by other sites PropOrNot says are “our allies” – similar anti-Russia web sources including the EU Disinformation Review (a ‘campaign’ run by the EU’s East StratCom Task force), Polygraph Info (run by US gov’t-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America)Fake News Watch (home of an extensive virtual book burning list), Stop Fake (Ukraine based, Pro-Maidan), Russia Lies (run by Julia Davis, a “national security expert” behind the tabloid reports alleging foul play in celebrity Britney Murphy’s death), and of course no anti-Russian allied list would be complete without Bellingcat (by now a widely discredited, Atlantic Council/NATO-linked, anti-Russian, anti-Syrian, ‘open source investigation’ website, run by Elliot Higgins).

The timing of this anti-Russian campaign is no coincidence either. This week the EU passed a new anti-Russian resolution to ‘counter act’ supposed Russian propaganda:  ‘EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties’, with 179 voting against it and 208 abstaining.

PropOrNot’s “Executive Summary” (yes, we’re trying not to laugh, too) states:

Thus far we at PropOrNot have identified over 200 distinct websites which qualify as Russian propaganda outlets according to our criteria, and target audiences in the United States. We estimate the regular US audiences of these sites to number in the tens of millions. We are gathering data to measure that more precisely, but we are confidant that it includes at least 15 million Americans.”

The McCarthyite tone of their defamation is breathtaking, as the site claims they can spot Russian agents of influence online and collaborator websites through an endless list of ‘things to look out for’:

(…) 9. Refer their audiences to each other, via hyperlinks and other means, at disproportionately high rates;

  1. Are consistently visited by the same audiences, both directly and via search, demonstrating that those intra-network referrals build “brand loyalty” in their audiences over time;
  2. Are consistently visited by their audiences after searches for terms which congrue with the Russian propaganda “line”, and are unrelated to the purported focus of their branding; (…) 

I guess it never occurred to these geniuses that people might be loyal followers of well-established alternative websites like AntiWar.com, Counterpunch, Information Clearing House, OpEd NewsActivist Post, Global Research.ca, Oriental Review, Truth-Out, Truth DigZero Hedge, Consortium News (run by award-winning US journalist Robert Parry), Ron Paul Institute (former US Congressman) and Paul Craig Roberts (former Cabinet member under President Reagan), to name only a few off of PropOrNot’s massive list of alleged ‘Russian propaganda collaborators.’

This is basically an amateur attempt to reverse engineer a virtual conspiracy – spuriously connecting 200 popular alternative websites – with a theoretical Russian plot. 

It should be a cause for concern that The Washington Post is now promoting a ‘Blacklist’ in the spirit of Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare.

Michael Krieger, editor of Liberty BlitzKrieg, one the sites on PropOrNot’s “List” sums up the fundamental flaw in both Timberg and ProOrNot’s insular Washington DC-centric mainstream bubble thinking:

“What’s particularly interesting about this list, isn’t the fact that a bunch of anonymous whiners decided to demonize successful critics of insane, inhumane and ethically indefensible U.S. government policy, but rather the fact that the Washington Post decided to craft an entire article around such a laughably ridiculous list. This just further proves a point that is rapidly becoming common knowledge amongst U.S. citizens with more than a couple of brain cells to rub together. The mainstream media is the real “fake news.”

Krieger adds: “Unfortunately, this is apparently all we know so far about this shadowy organization, which is simply hilarious considering the group deems any alternative news source that does not agree with the U.S. government narrative to be either outright Russian propaganda, or “useful idiots.”

Krieger makes an indisputable point though, and one that’s also been made by numerous qualified pundits: by far the most prolific purveyor of real fake news and propaganda, especially over the last 30 years – is undoubtedly the US and UK media, and as we can all see – they haven’t slowed down.

The issue of confirmation bias in western media is chronic, but it’s also an institutional problem when you consider that many of these mainstream writers are submerged under their own layer of Western-generated American or British propaganda. As a result, they might be completely oblivious of the fact that John Kerry has been caught lying to the world at the UN about what Russia supposedly did in the Ukraine, Crimea, and Syria, or they might have missed UN Ambassador Samantha Power’s antics at the UN – an embarrassment to the US in front of a world audience, or Admiral John Kirby’s epic meltdown last week after he couldn’t defend his own lies to an RT reporter at the US State Department press briefing. On Syria in particular, US politicians have lied so much and so often, that most serious people around the world do not believe a word that comes out of this Administration’s mouth – and American and European bloggers most certainly have a right to point this out – not because it pleases Putin – but because they are disgusted with their own government’s poor (and highly illegal) conduct on the world stage, especially at this moment in Syria and Yemen. Evidently, none of this factors into the reports by Timberg and “PropOrNot.”

Maybe they didn’t get the memo either, about the fact that Assad did not “gas his own people” in East Ghouta in August 2013, or any other time that can be proven by his accusers.

Many in the US media are simply living inside of their own self-generated, self-reverential propaganda bubble.

Even more incredibly, PropOrNot then implores its visitors to only visit and get information from US government-funded news sources like NPR, state-owned media like the BBC, Murdoch-owned and financed outlets like the Wall Street Journal and VICE News, and corporate establishment media sources:

“We call on the American public to: Obtain news from actual reporters, who report to an editor and are professionally accountable for mistakes. We suggest NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington PostBuzzfeedVICE, etc, and especially your local papers and local TV news channels. Support them by subscribing, if you can!”

It’s pretty incredible to see The Washington Post basing a case on an anonymous website – one which is conducting a virtual witch hunt, clearly with malicious intent (to smear some 200 websites), as a primary journalistic source.

At this point, everyone should question the political motives of Washington Post staff writer Craig Timberg. It’s beyond outrageous even by today’s decrepit standards.

Judging by the looks of it, PropOrNot itself is a pretty good example of pure black propaganda.

Who is behind Timberg’s ‘source’ PropOrNot? Is it Timberg himself? Is it run by staff at The Washington Post? As it’s so secretive, you can’t rule that possibility out.

In true NeoMcCarthyite form, PropOrNot has also issued “The List” – a guide to alternative media websites which it accuses of “echo Russian propaganda.” As of today, amazingly, 21st Century Wire.com is not included on their virtual book burning list (but its likely to be after they read this article).

Strangely, there is no mention at all by Timberg about a report by BuzzFeed News which identified the primary source of the actual ‘fake news’ flooding Facebook – more than 150 pro-Trump websites being run from a single town, by a cohort of savvy teenagers in Veles, Macedonia – which is not Russia. Granted, Buzzfeed and The Guardian are both establishment media that sometimes produce their own propaganda. However, unless Timberg can refute either the Buzzfeed or The Guardian reports on this subject, or somehow tie his suspected battery of ‘Kremlin controlled’ hackers to Veles, then this entire unified conspiracy theory in D.O.A.

According to these investigations, the Veles crew are not ideologically motivated, but rather, driven by that old classic – money. They are raking it in with standard Google Ad Sense and other online traffic CPM advertising unit revenue, with incomes ranging from $5,000 to as high as $30,000 per month.  They’re not doing it for Mother Russia, but rather for Benjamin Franklin.

No Credibility

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for PropOrNot, on their front page they posted this:

UPDATE: We are publishing our Black Friday Report, adding FAQ entries, updating The List, and more! Please see our latest post for more information. Also, for a sense of what certain kinds of Russian trolls look and sound like in real life, check out this Samantha Bee segment, which cleverly interviews Russian social-media and comment-section propagandists:” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OauLuWXD_RI  [PropOrNot links to the Samantha Bee Show]

Aside from the fact that this secret Washington Post source would rely on the Samantha Bee Show for anything, the geniuses at PropOrNot seem to have missed the fact that the alleged Russian Trolls were acting for money – they convinced Bee they were a “the real deal” when she approached them via Twitter, where the hoaxer and his female associate were paid $10,000 for appearing on Bee’s “Full Frontal” show.

Bee may have just fell short of a Pulitzer for that one.

It’s certainly possible that Macedonia’s fake news bedroom empire is being managed by someone higher up the food chain than a cadre of eastern European gamers, but based on their ubiquitous references to breaking FOX News events and nuanced political and emotive button pushing from these faux news sites – it’s on the whole much more likely that any alleged ‘Pro-Trump’ hidden hand would be more likely directing their talking points from inside of the United States.

Timberg’s fake story in The Post was then echoed by Daniel Politi at the popular liberal website The Slate, under the heading,How Russian Propaganda Used Facebook to Spread Fake News During the Election,” in an attempt to give more credence to Timberg’s contrived thesis:

Politi says, “.. at least some of the false news that spread in the last few months of the campaign appears to have had much more serious geopolitical implications and was spread thanks to “a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign,” reports the Washington Post, which cites two recent expert reports on the issue.”

Again, “expert” claims. Just to remind readers, the first expert is an anonymous Russiaphobic website PropOrNot, while the other ‘expert’ writes for an anti-Russian blog and works for a neoconservative think tank (see Neocon below).

Less we forget, The Slate invented a fake story that went viral in October, one which was retweeted by Hillary Clinton herself. Apparently, Clinton’s campaign staff fed her planted online news story created by another on The Slate’s ‘journalists’ named Franklin Foer, complete with the comical clickbait headline, Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?

Here’s Hillary Clinton’s tweet of The Slate’s own ‘fake news’ story:

(View image on Twitter)


Follow Hillary Clinton

It’s time for Trump to answer serious questions about his ties to Russia.


John Roberts at Forbes explains how The Slate got caught passing off actual ‘fake news’ at the height of the election, “The bottom line is that Slate screwed up by publishing this in the first place, and by adding more kooky misinformation to an already addled election season. As for Foer, he says on Twitter a “follow up” piece is in the works.”

What’s the difference between The Slate’s fake news story and the Macedonian fake Trump stories on Facebook? There is no difference, other than the fact that Hillary Clinton ended up making a fool out of herself by tweeting out – and validating to her millions of followers – a completely make-up, fake news story by The Slate. 

So Craig Timberg and The Slate are guilty of doing exactly what Timberg and his deep throat ‘source’ PropOrNot are accusing Russia’s alleged clandestine Facebook and blogger network of doing – passing around and “echoing fake news.”

How these ‘journalists’ at The Washington Post and The Slate expect to be taken seriously after this is just beyond the pale.

Neocon Think Tanks and other ‘Experts’

Craig Timberg’s other supporting ‘evidence’ or opinion (it’s hard to tell the difference in the Washington Post these days) is being supplied by Clint Watts from the ubiquitously titled, Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), a Cold War era ‘think tank’ (not surprisingly, still stuck in the Cold War), no doubt with links to Washington’s intelligence establishment. If that think tank sounds familiar to any neocon fossil hunters, you’d know that FPRI is run by none other than John Lehman, one of the original signatories to the neoconservative doctrine of continuous war, Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and a foreign policy advisor to both John McCain and Mitt Romney – two virulent anti-Russian hawks. So it’s no surprise then that Timberg is referencing his ‘expert’ Watts, along with co-authors Andrew Weisburd and JM Berger, in an article from the website War On the Rocks, entitled:

Trolling For Trump: How Russia is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”  

This is coupled with a related story by Watts and Andrew Weisburd published at the very anti-Russian publication, the Daily Beast, entitled:

How Russia Dominates Your Twitter Feed to Promote Lies (And, Trump, Too) – “Fake news stories from Kremlin propagandists regularly become social media trends. Here’s how Moscow does it… and what it means for America’s election 2016.”

Impressive headline, if not a touch Click Bait-y. Once again, the familiar mainstream media pattern of misleading headlines inferring that the article contains actual evidence, and again, the evidence supplied by Watts is that ‘a lot of people think Russia did it,’ claiming that:

“And the evidence is compelling. A range of activities speaks to a Russian connection: the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials, hacks surrounding voter rolls and possibly election machines, Putin’s overt praise for Trump, and the curious Kremlin connections of Trump campaign operatives Paul Manafort and Carter Page.”

Very “compelling”? Essentially, the above are a series of familiar, albeit recycled, talking points that may as well have been beamed-in via John Podesta’s personal Blackberry. To Clinton supporters, those talking points sounded plausible a month ago, but even staunch Clintonites are fast abandoning the Russian conspiracy theories. For establishment supporters of Hillary Clinton, that translates as case closed. This is a perfect example of a propaganda bubble, or a self-feeding propaganda loop. Many have argued that it was this sort of delusional incestuous closed loop that inadvertently helped to get Donald Trump elected on Nov 8th.

Timberg’s source at War On the Rocks also claims that Putin has rebooted the old Soviet “Active Measures” information warfare program designed to “Undermine citizen confidence in democratic governance.” Their evidence: a 1992 document from the US Information Agency, of course, not anything from Russia itself. Again, we’ll have to accept the word of the “intelligence community,” because they talked about it back in 1992. The rest of the theory is comprised of a fill-in-the-blanks exercise plugging-in a little Alex Jones for good measure, and various other websites – into a highly creative infographic ‘proving’ the Russians are waging an ‘Active Measures on Steroid’ information warfare against the United States.

Here’s creative infographic from their website designed to stitch together Watts’s elaborate conspiracy theory:


Watts also claims that anyone in the West who supports Bashar al Assad in Syria is doing so at the behest of this ‘Russian Active Measures’ operation:

“When experts published content criticizing the Russian-supported Bashar al Assad regime, organized hordes of trolls would appear to attack the authors on Twitter and Facebook. Examining the troll social networks revealed dozens of accounts presenting themselves as attractive young women eager to talk politics with Americans, including some working in the national security sector. These “honeypot” social media accounts were linked to other accounts used by the Syrian Electronic Army hacker operation. All three elements were working together: the trolls to sow doubt, the honeypots to win trust, and the hackers (we believe) to exploit clicks on dubious links sent out by the first two.”

This is derivative theorizing that would make even Bellingcat wince. The use of the word “troll” as a generalized pejorative label is buttressed by an even more bias notion that no one in the west would ever be against regime change in Syria, unless they were convinced otherwise by attractive Russian online honeypots. This level of ‘research’ is beyond ridiculous, and yet, this is what passes for a ‘trusted source’ at the Washington Post today.

Political Bias: An Occupational Hazzard at The Washington Post

In a previous article, it’s just a little too obvious that Timberg can’t hold back his disappointment in Hillary Clinton’s defeat when you read his headline: Could better Internet security have prevented Trump’s shocking win?

“The election of Republican Donald Trump has stunned Silicon Valley, sparking renewed fears about how the federal government’s powerful surveillance machinery could undermine personal privacy — especially in the hands of a man with a history of threatening retaliation against those who challenge him,” claims Timberg.

The hysterical lamenting quickly turns to fear mongering:

“In Silicon Valley, many were dazed after Tuesday’s election. Some companies let their employees take the day off or wrote all-staff letters reminding their colleagues of their commitment to inclusive workplaces that protect women, immigrants and minorities. Techies, meanwhile, warned one another on Twitter to begin using privacy and encrypted tools.”

What is the difference between this politicized diatribe and the fake Macedonia posts on Facebook? There is no difference, they are doing the same thing. What is going on at The Washington Post? It looks like the organization abandoned any pretense of objective journalism.

Here you have a writer who is on staff at The Washington Post and a fellow at Stanford University’s John S. Knight School of Journalism – trying to posit a unified conspiracy theory that Russia steered the outcome of a US Presidential Election.

Timberg is just one of many examples of overtly politically bias writers in mainstream publications, specifically employed by The Washington Post, New York Times, ABC, CBS, CNN and others.  Many were caught working in collusion with the Hillary Clinton campaign, like The Post’s “star reporter” Juliet Eilperin who was revealed in an email to have offered John Podesta a “heads up” about a story she was about to publish, even going so far as to provide the Clinton campaign CEO with a brief pre-publication synopsis. Here are a few more famous “journalists” and their corrupted publications guilty of colluding with the Clinton Campaign:


Not surprisingly, Timberg then goes on to call the news output of RT (Russia Today) “propaganda,” and goes on to base his value judgment on a Rand Corporation report that describes Russian media as a “propaganda efforts a ‘firehose of falsehood’ because of their speed, power and relentlessness” — a report which also claims that Russia attacked neighboring Georgia in 2008, a common western meme, when in reality it was US-backed Georgian military forces that attacked South Ossetia – an obvious point which Timberg seems to have overlooked due to his own confirmation bias. Sadly, this is par for the course with most US media pundits, most of whom do not really care what actually happened, only what Washington’s party line is on events.

His source, War on the Rocks, continues pushing their conspiracy theory, stating, “But most observers are missing the point. Russia is helping Trump’s campaign, yes, but it is not doing so solely or even necessarily with the goal of placing him in the oval office. Rather, these efforts seek to produce a divided electorate and a president with no clear mandate to govern. The ultimate objective is to diminish and tarnish American democracy.”

I think America has managed to do a pretty good job of that by itself.

Decline of the US Mainstream Media

The loss of credibility is the least of The Post’s worries though.

The reality is that in an effort to recoup dwindling revenues needed to pay for its inflated salaries and non-investigative ‘investigations,’ The Washington Post themselves have had to resort to pushing daily some of the most gratuitous ‘click bait’ stories on the web. Here’s one of many daily low-brow items, this ‘Polar Bear Eats Dog‘ story is from Tuesday Nov 22nd.

If you follow the Post’s newsfeed, you will see endless articles like the polar bear story, most of which carry a deceptive headline that does not reflect the story in the article. That’s real Click Bait, and it’s now their bread and butter.

In an age of universal corruption in Washington and rampant collusion between political elites and the US corporate media, it’s much easier to scapegoat an existential enemy for every systemic and institutional crisis affecting America. Whole industries have been spun out of this old habit: the intelligence industry, the defense industry, and the new ‘security’ industry – collectively well over a trillion-dollar per year financial concern requires a boogyman in order to justify not only its existence, but also its corporate share prices, and financial growth projections. Now, there’s a real unified conspiracy theory for you! Maybe Craig Timberg should consider looking into that conspiracy, in the tradition of the former versions of Woodward and Bernstein.

Author Jay Dyer explained the current corporate media structure in America today in his article entitled, The Entire Mainstream Warmongering Media is Fake,” explaining, “Given the mainstream media is almost wholly owned by 6 conglomerates, we can begin to see how the coordination and control once considered a “conspiracy theory” is now made evident.


2012 Ownership Chart (Image Source: Jays Analysis)

In 1983, there were 50 and now it is roughly six, with NewsCorp owning the largest papers on three continents. That these facts sound like a “conspiracy theory” can only be presumed from a position of ignorance, especially given the full coordination and deception regarding the Trump – Clinton election of 2016, from rigged polls to Wikileaks revelations of 60-plus top media operatives directly promoting Hillary.”

Dyer adds, “If the Trump phenomena showed anything, it showed the consensus reality the mainstream media attempted to create concerning Hillary’s certain victory, as well as the consensus reality erected for decades, is not omnipotent.”

In short, the entire US corporate media seems to function with a singular hive mind, aggressively promoting one war after the another, and elevating a new geopolitical foe every few years. This can be explained in part by the defense industry’s ownership of US mainstream outlets, and the hundreds of millions of dollars these Pentagon-linked companies pour into both TV, print and online ads – none of that explains how editors, writers and producers at these outlets can sit there and still claim they are still performing their duty as part of the Fourth Estate.

As it stands, mainstream journalism is truly dead in America.

On Oct 9, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it accurately:

“We have witnessed a fundamental change of circumstances when it comes to the aggressive Russophobia that now lies at the heart of U.S. policy towards Russia. It’s not just a rhetorical Russophobia, but aggressive steps that really hurt our national interests and pose a threat to our security.”

What Lavrov didn’t say is that it has now reached hysterical proportions in US mainstream media circles, where those who call themselves journalists are willing to present virtually anything and call it reporting, even if it’s pure hyperbole, so long as it fulfils the anti-Russian narrative.

Unfortunately, The Washington Post continues to be a big part of the problem.

Patrick Henningsen is the founder and managing editor of the independent news and media analysis website 21st Century Wire.com and host of the weekly SUNDAY WIRE radio show which broadcasts live weekly on the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR). [This article originally appeared at 21st Century Wire.com]

Debate over the Cleveland Indians’ Mascot

The U.S. government’s genocide against Native Americans has led many people to object to Indian nicknames and caricatures in sports, such as the grinning Chief Wahoo mascot of the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

With the Cleveland Indians in Major League Baseball’s World Series, attention is drawn again to the team’s smiling mascot, Chief Wahoo, who represents to many Native Americans a racist stereotype.

Indeed, a “real” Cleveland Indian — Jacqueline Keeler, a Navajo Yankton Dakota Sioux who was raised in Cleveland and is now a writer based in Portland, Oregon — has been fighting against Chief Wahoo and other sports mascots that are degrading toward Native Americans. She was interviewed regarding the image’s high profile during the series against the Chicago Cubs.

Dennis Bernstein: Why don’t you give us a little background on your family and growing up in Cleveland?

Jacqueline Keeler: Many people don’t know this, but Cleveland was the site of a relocation program that took places in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. It was part of a two-pronged program launched by the U.S. Congress to terminate tribes, and to relocate the populace, to relocate Native Americans, to urban centers. And it was a way to make us disappear, and also to gain access to our lands, and many tribes were terminated, and then they had their land sold. And, here in Oregon, many tribes were terminated and they got access to their timber stands.

[…] And so, my parents were relocated, they were on the relocation program into Cleveland and as young people. And within a decade of that program starting in Cleveland by the late 60’s [Cleveland] had a pretty substantial Native population for the first time since Native people were removed from Ohio, in the 1830’s, to Oklahoma.

DB: And so your parents met there?

JK: Uh-huh.

DB: And that was part of a relocation and termination policy?

JK: Yes, for tribes. And luckily that was defeated, and turned around. And my tribes were not terminated.

DB: What was the policy? Explain that policy.

JK: Well, the idea was that they would just finally get rid of tribes. Tribes are actually sovereign nations within the United States. And we’re pesky reminders that the United States is basically occupying our lands. And so they were just hoping to wave a wand and make us all go away. And then taking the relocation program was, for young people, from 18 to 35 years of age, and the idea was to basically de-populate our communities, and make us disappear in large cities.

And so these relocation programs were set up in Los Angeles, in Denver, in Cleveland, in Dallas, Texas. Within a short time there were about 20,000 young Native people in Cleveland. And what they did was, they began to organize. And one of the first things they began to organize against was Chief Wahoo. And so the earliest documented large scale protest against Chief Wahoo occurred in 1968.

DB: Okay, remind us who Chief Wahoo is, what he stands for, because everybody is not from Cleveland.

JK: Yeah. It’s a totally grotesque caricature of a Native person. Supposedly, it’s meant to honor a Cleveland baseball player who was Native American back in the early 20th century. It’s a really grotesque caricature.

My organization started the notyourmascot hashtag. We trended nationally. Pretty much the only Native hashtag that’s ever trended nationally. And I remember arguing with the Washington NFL fans, and having them say “Well, why? … [Y]our mascot, the Cleveland mascot, is way worse” in defending their own mascot.

Of course, for me the issue is mascotry, which is a word I invented. The problem is all the different sort of stereotypes that having a Native mascot promotes in the populace, and in the fans, and what it teaches people about Native people. That’s the problem. You have the red face, the acting out of “Native traditions and culture” and the entitlement it breeds, over our culture and identities.

So I remember growing up hearing stories about my parents talking about protesting against Chief Wahoo. We moved away when I was quite young so I didn’t have to live with Chief Wahoo. Although when I wrote the article for Salon, and went over the history of Native people in Cleveland, Salon titled the article “My Life as a Cleveland Indian.” I went back last year and I participated in the protests during the season opener, at Progressive Field, there in Cleveland. And I got to meet the Native community.

DB: And what was that like? Was that empowering? […]

JK: It was. I landed in Cleveland, and the airport is really small, and people were really friendly. And when I told them I was born there, everyone, even like Cleveland Indian fans that I was interviewing at the games, even though they were drunk, they were really touched that I came back. They actually asked me to move back. It’s the only place I’ve been, besides the reservation, where people have asked me to move back.

And I think that’s part of Cleveland’s story, the Ohio River Valley, was… you know the colonists… one of the reasons they launched the Revolutionary War was to gain access to the Ohio River Valley, which was denied to them by King George III because he/they had set that aside as Indian land. And after the Revolutionary War they throw the tribes out, when it comes down to everyone, the Shawnee.

And so, it’s just strange that after taking that land and basically committing genocide against the tribes in Ohio, Cleveland is really fearful that they might be abandoned by the United States. They look at Detroit, they can see Detroit from their backyard. They know that the U.S. abandons cities.

And so there are still stories partly tied into this idea of… that they are half what they were when my family lived there. They went from being the seventh largest city in the 1950’s to being the 48th or 49th, now. And it’s really shocking. And I really felt really welcomed when I was there. And so for them, their teams winning like this, the Cavs [Cavaliers] last year and now, the MLB in the baseball team, you want to cheer for them. But […] when it’s attached to this kind of racism it makes it very difficult.

DB: I want to ask you a little bit about the actual actions that are taking place [during the World Series]. You have an e-mail campaign. I imagine you couldn’t, it’s probably pretty hard to get tickets to the World Series, but are there any protests, in terms of the context of the World Series?

JK: Yeah, there are. There’s a really great local group there in Portland. I got to meet with them. They’re called the Committee for 500 Years, and they, actually, are part of… they grew out of the American Indian community in Cleveland, the real Cleveland American Indian community. They have been connecting protests for decades, of these games. And they are doing protests. They are protesting right now, as we speak. And they have a great presence there.

And it is sort of surprising because, you know, Cleveland has a really large black community. But when you go to the games, one of the things I noticed was that all the fans were white. Like, I didn’t see any people of color.

And when we protest at the Redskins game sometimes like 30% of the fans were African American, which is very difficult, because they would walk right by a whole flank of Native people protesting, and just not look us in the eye, or sometimes jeer at us. And you want solidarity. And it’s hard when people, the mascot, I often say that mascoting masks our identities. It dehumanizes us to our fellow Americans, and it’s not a great thing to teach the next generation.

I just saw an article where they are giving away Cleveland Indian onesies to newborns in hospitals around Cleveland. And it’s like they’re teaching them these stereotypes at birth.

DB: They’re teaching them the stereotypes at birth. You mean, these are like gifts? So we won the World Series so this is a special thing we’re doing?

JK: Well, yeah. They just showed a picture of all the newborns in their incubators and they’re all wearing onesies.

DB: Well that gets them early, huh?

JK: Yeah, and online we’re doing, my group, eradicating offensive Native mascotry. We’re doing a Twitter storm and we’re doing it all week, throughout the World Series. We’re just making sure that people get educated about the facts and the harm that mascotry does. There have been plenty of studies done that show that the teaching of stereotypes are primarily negative. The University of Buffalo came out with a study last year that found that they are negative and that they actually encourage other stereotypes about other groups, as well.

And then Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, she did studies at Stanford, where she found that Native youth that were exposed to mascots, Native mascots, had a loss of self-esteem, a measurable loss. She measured their self-esteem before and after, and Native youth who claimed to be okay with Native mascots actually suffered the steepest decline in self-esteem. And, it really indicates that a lot of coping mechanisms have to be employed, a lot of energy employed to make it okay.

And Native youths have the highest rates of suicide in the country, bar none. And they have a rate of about three times that of other peers. And Native young men actually have the highest rate. The rates are nine times that of other young American men. And, so, this is the most vulnerable group in America. And they really don’t need this kind of extra added…

DB: Alright, so […] there is an e-mail campaign?

JK: We have a Twitter storm that we’re doing […]. We’re actually doing notyourmascot and also dechief which is another hashtag that was started by Cleveland fans, where they would cut Chief Wahoo out of their apparel and gear and then post a picture of that online with the hashtag dechief.

DB: So, this is interesting. And are there any Native American players on these teams [the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs] playing [in the World Series]?

JK: I don’t know. I don’t think there are. In the early years of baseball there were a lot of pro Native players, in the early 20th century. My great-grandfather and his twin brother played pro baseball, as well. But I don’t know. I know that the Washington NFL team reportedly recruited a Native, a guy who’s of Native descent onto their team and everything. As a way to try to say that our criticism was unwarranted. But, yeah, I don’t know.

DB: And this is now a national struggle because this isn’t the only racist mascot stereotype that’s being perpetuated. This is a part of the professional leagues in the United States.

JK: Yeah, it has a huge reach. And, even at the college level and high school level, there are 2,000 high schools in this country that have Native American mascots. And if you were to scale that up for other ethnic groups like for Black Americans which have 10 times the population of Native Americans you would have 20,000 high schools with black mascots and it just gives you the idea of how overwhelming this is for Native people.

And to see it on T.V., to have stadiums with 90,000 people in them doing Hopi chants and acting out stereotypes, how isolating that is to Native people, who are really a minority amongst minorities in most communities. And about 80% of all Native people live off the reservation. So they don’t live in communities where they are part of any sort of majority at all, or a significant group. So they have to face this kind of ignorance alone. And, yeah, it has a huge impact.

DB: This is amazing. Because if you contrast this with what you also know a lot about, which is what’s going on in North Dakota… what’s happening in North Dakota is what the U.S. government didn’t want to happen and by various acts of genocide like the one we’re talking about tonight, subtle undermining of a culture, by the use of racist stereotypes. This is sort of an interesting parallel structure because you see the oppression here, but there’s a real movement being led by the Native peoples to stop the destruction of the planet.

JK: Exactly. I just got back from North Dakota. My dad’s tribe, the Yankton Sioux tribe, some of the sites there are Yankton or Ihanktowan sites, burial sites. That is part of our 1851 Treaty that we signed with the U.S. government and my dad’s tribe has a lawsuit right now with the Army Corps of Engineers, over what’s happening there at Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I think when you look at the parallels, basically what is happening, they try to disappear us, there are no tribe reservations in Ohio, and in North Dakota, most of its land that it’s claiming is private land is actually un-ceded treaty territory, which means that the U.S. government signs treaties with tribes. And these are not special little agreements, these are international legal agreements. And the Senate only ratifies treaties with other sovereign nations. So by ratifying treaties with us they recognize our status internationally as sovereign nations.

And so when the Oceti Sakowin, the great Sioux Nation, exerts its rights, it is actually in its legal rights to do so. And, similarly, there are large tracts of land across the United States that have never been actually legally ceded to the United States, they are held by force. The whole state of Nevada, the Shoshone tribe never ceded that. And, of course, the most famous case is the Black Hills which the great Sioux Nation never ceded that land either. And, actually, the Supreme Court agreed with us, in 1981, I think.

And so we actually have legal title to these places, and they’re being held. And you can see what’s happening in North Dakota. They’re being held by force. And that force is revealing itself. The United States is a colonial enterprise, whose goal is to profit off of our land. And their only purpose is to make a profit. And they’re not a real nation in the sense that we have a connection to the land.

When I woke up last Saturday at camp, they were playing John Trudeau, the Santee Dakota poet, poetry, having him read and he’s passed on, but they had a recording of him, and he was saying, “We are the people of the Earth. Who are you?” And I think that Native nations, our origin stories, always go back to some sort of meeting with a sacred being.

With the Lakota and Dakota people it is with the White Buffalo Calf Woman and they say that she actually appeared to us near the site of where the Dakota Access Pipeline is being laid. Right there, where the White Stone massacre happened. And so this is where we became a people, a nation—Dakota and these are the stories that tie us to the land.

And these are the stories they are trying to erase. And by making us American citizens and clouding our identity as citizens of our own nations, I think that’s all part of the story. And assuming our identity is, of course, the full circle of that.

In my mom’s culture, in Navajo culture, they have these things called skin walkers, they’re like witches, and they wear the skins of animals, and take on their appearance, and really I often feel like this whole thing of taking on our identity in this way through mascotry is a form of skin walking. And it’s a form of trophyism. You know, that they see us and they have a right to do what they want with our image, and our culture.

DB: And, what tribe did you say your dad was from?

JK: He is Yankton, it’s a Yankton Sioux tribe. In our language it would be Inhanktowan Dakota.

DB: And they’re suing the Army Corps of Engineers?

JK: Yes. They are. Their lawsuit hasn’t been heard yet, and then, of course, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is also suing. But they lost and they’re appealing, now. And the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe has enjoined that lawsuit as well.

DB: And this suit goes right against the Army Corps of Engineers which has been halted from action by the President, at this point.

JK: Yeah, they have….

DB: They have halted the company from going on public lands.

JK: Yeah, the federal… the waterways, the Missouri River is the federal waterway, so the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government has jurisdiction over it. However, most of the pipeline is on private land. In fact, they purchased the Cannonball Ranch, where they had, over Labor Day weekend, dug up recently identified burial sites and other archeological sites for the…

DB: The company bought the ranch?

JK: They bought it. Yes. Actually, they may have broke the law because North Dakota has a Depression Era law against corporate ownership of agricultural land, non-family owned corporations owning agricultural land in North Dakota. And they admit they broke the law, but they say they’re going to make it right later.

DB: So a private citizen sold to the company which proceeded to drill, and did?

JK: Yes.


JK: My family fought the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Yankton Sioux tribe played a major role in that. And so I talked to the folks, the white farmers that helped us, they band with us. My aunt helped form this alliance called the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, and I talked to them and they said that they’re hearing that…

DB: These are the farmers and the Native Americans [who] are working together to restrain the oil….

JK: Yes. We were really lucky to find landowners, white landowners, who were willing to stand with us, cause they take a huge risk. Because they face imminent domain threats. They could pay all these legal fees and still lose their land. And I heard that the Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas corporation that is behind Dakota Access Pipeline, is even more vicious and even worse than Trans-Canada was.

DB: Well, let me ask you, we just got a minute or two left, what are you asking people to do in terms of the stereotypes, in terms of the racist mascots? You talked about an action, I want to remind people what you’re up to and what you folks are trying to do here.

JK: We want the mascoting of Native people to stop. And to basically change the emphasis to real representations of Native people in the media, and in sports. And we would like for our real lives to be seen, and to be understood.

[…] You know, here in Portland, we have this Powell’s Bookstore that has thousands of books. But how many of those books actually feature Native protagonists? That’s the problem, there’s no balance. People often ask me “Well, what about the Vikings?” Well, the difference is that that’s not the only way you see a white man, as a Viking. If you never saw a white man as anything else than a Viking, and you never saw him on T.V., you never saw him save the world in a Hollywood film, you never saw him as President of the United States, then it would be a similar situation. The issue is the prevalence of mascotry and stereotypes, over real knowledge of Native people.

DB: I guess tonight you’ll be rooting for the people and the removal of that racist symbol, right? That will be a home run, for the home team, for you, huh?

JK: Well, I guess I’m rooting […] that we get a chance to use this time this week [during the World Series]  to really educate people, and to really get people to think about it. And to get Americans to understand, because obviously other Americans understand this, because you will notice that no other ethnic group is mascoted to the degree that Native people are.

DB: We’re going to have to leave it right 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.

The Democrats’ ‘Super-Delegate’ Mistake

Exclusive: Democratic “super-delegates” – hundreds of party insiders – tilted the presidential race to Hillary Clinton though not chosen by voters, an undemocratic idea that was never intended, says Spencer Oliver who was there at the creation.

By Spencer Oliver

The issue of the Democratic Party’s “super-delegates” threatens to divide the Democratic Party at the Philadelphia convention as Sen. Bernie Sanders argues that the automatic vote given these party leaders made the race undemocratic because they did not compete in the primaries and caucuses and broke heavily and early in favor of Hillary Clinton.

And Sanders has a point. I was there at the creation of this party feature and I can attest that the idea of “super-delegates” making up around 15 percent of the voting delegates – and thus holding a powerful influence over the selection process – was never what was intended.

The original thinking was that a relative handful of state party chairs who had to remain neutral while setting up the primaries and caucuses would still get to go to the conventions. However, the numbers of “super-delegates” kept expanding and expanding as other party leaders lobbied to be included among those not having to compete in the delegate-selection process.

The “super-delegate” system was born in the wake of Democratic Party efforts after the 1968 convention to make the presidential selection process more open and democratic. I was involved in the work of all the reform commissions as the administrative assistant to Democratic National Committee Chair in 1966, later as President of the National Young Democrats, and subsequently as the founding Executive Director of the Association of State Democratic Chairs.

Named for their various leaders, these reform efforts were called the Wagner, McGovern, Fraser, O’Hara and Sanford Commissions, which made their reform recommendations to the DNC. All were tasked with making our party more open, more transparent, more inclusive, more democratic, and ultimately more successful in attracting the broad support of America’s diverse population. In other words, the idea was to put more power in the hands of rank-and-file Democrats.

This represented a major reform from the 1960s when party bosses like Carmine DeSapio in New York, powerful Governors like David Lawrence in Pennsylvania and Mike DiSalle in Ohio, and legendary Mayors like Richard Daley in Chicago dominated the Democratic conventions and had an outsized role in picking the Democratic presidential nominee.

The reform commissions were a response to that unpopular and highly criticized system. The Mississippi Freedom Party at the Atlantic City convention in 1964 and the anti-war protesters in Chicago in 1968 made the reform inevitable and certainly necessary.

Reforms and Consequence

The reforms brought American citizens much more extensively into the process of choosing the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer. The reforms also required State Democratic Chairs to be neutral as they organized their states’ primary and caucus systems. However, that meant the state chairs could not be elected to attend the party conventions as delegates committed to one candidate or the other.

So, the State Democratic Chairs proposed the idea of so-called “super-delegates” in the early 1970s, arguing that they should be automatic delegates because the reforms called for by the Wagner Commission and the DNC would otherwise exclude them from participation in the conventions. The DNC bought that argument. After all, they would be a relatively small number of delegates.

But then the governors wanted the same privilege, followed by congressional leaders and then the DNC members themselves. This expanding group now constitutes nearly 30 percent of the 2,383 delegates needed for nomination, significantly diluting the strength of the pledged delegates elected in primaries and caucuses.

Along the way, the “super-delegates” seem to have forgotten why they are there — and how they got there — in the first place.

On Feb. 12, 2016, when DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was asked on CNN whether the existence of “super-delegates” might give the impression to regular voters that the process was rigged, she answered: “Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grass-roots activists. We … want to give every opportunity to grass-roots activists and diverse committed Democrats to be able to participate, attend and be a delegate at the convention. And so we separate out those unpledged delegates to make sure that there isn’t competition between them.”

But “super-delegates” really were an unintended outgrowth of the reform process and indeed fly in the face of the reform goals, which were to extend to the average voter the power to select the party’s nominee. By contrast, the “super-delegates” are given the power to vote for the nominee simply because they occupy – or in some cases occupied years ago – positions that entitle them to vote without having to earn that privilege by participating in the primaries or caucuses. Is this fair? Is this democratic?

What’s Good for Kazakhstan…

I am reminded of my past experience as secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s parliamentary assembly in organizing the election observation mission to the first elections in Kazakhstan in 1994 when we were trying to encourage the former Soviet republics to transition toward democracy.

The Kazakhs were trying to move in that direction, but they adopted an election law that allowed the President to appoint 25 percent of the parliament. For that reason, we declared that the election was clearly unfair. The Kazakhs were mortified and internationally embarrassed. They later changed the law and – although democracy has not yet blossomed in that part of the world – such non-electoral legislative appointments have disappeared throughout the area. Yet, a similar rule exists in the Democratic Party of the United States of America.

I am not arguing that our party leaders should not attend the Philadelphia convention. They should be on the floor, entitled to speak, to lobby, to advocate and to impart their wisdom and experience to their fellow delegates. They have certainly earned that right. But they should not have the right to vote for the Democratic Party’s choice for president and vice president.

That “super-delegates” would hold such power over the selection process was never the intent of the party’s reforms and indeed goes against the goals of those reforms, which have largely succeeded in drawing citizens more directly into the process while also broadening the Democratic Party’s tent to include minorities, women, unions, young people, LGBT – just about every component needed for electoral victory.

This divisive issue of “super-delegates” can be easily resolved. The party leaders, i.e., the “super-delegates” themselves and – most importantly – our members of Congress and governors, should make the “super-delegates” non-voting delegates, with all the convention privileges and honors they deserve, except the right to vote on the nomination. The DNC could even do this by meeting the day before the convention and amending the party’s rules to correct this democratic deficit in our system.

Spencer Oliver recently retired as Secretary General of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. He previously served for eight years as a senior official at the DNC. And for more than twenty years on Capitol Hill, concluding as Chief Counsel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

S. Korean Villagers Sued for Anti-Base Protests

Village protesters have challenged South Korea’s construction of a new naval base on Jeju Island, known for its stunning Gureombi Rocks, but the navy is striking back with a punitive lawsuit designed to silence dissent, writes Ann Wright.

By Ann Wright

The South Korean Navy filed a civil lawsuit against 116 individual anti-base protesters and five groups including the Gangjeong Village Association demanding $3 million in compensation for alleged construction delays caused by protests over the past eight years.

In one of the longest, strongest protests against more military bases around the world, the villagers of Gangjeong, Jeju Island, South Korea, have achieved international recognition of their spiritual and corporal resistance and persistence in trying to preserve unique natural features of their community, the Gureombi Rocks.

Samsung, the primary contractor for the $1 billion project, precipitated the action by filing a lawsuit against the government for slowdown of work caused by the protests because Samsung’s profit margin was impacted by the protests.

Villagers are very angry about the lawsuit that if upheld would bankrupt everyone named. To show its displeasure to the Navy, the village moved its City Hall to a tent on the main road across from the entrance to the base. The Vice-Mayor holds city meetings in the tent and sleeps there.

Lawyers for the activists wrote that the navy’s lawsuit is “an unjustified declaration of war against the people. When the reckless development of the state and large construction companies threaten the right of citizens to a peaceful existence, the right of citizens to oppose this must be guaranteed as their natural and constitutional right since sovereignty rests with the people. To condemn this action as illegal is to delegitimize the foundation of democracy.”

100 Bows Morning Vigil

Every morning for the past eight years, at 7 a.m., rain, snow or good weather, Gangjeong Village activists reflect through 100 bows to the universe on their lives of activism for a peaceful world while confronting the war machine at one of its gates.

The thoughts represented in 100 bows span all religions and spiritual traditions.  A few of the thoughts include:

1. While holding in my heart that truth gives freedom to life I make my first bow.

7. As I hold in my heart that possessions create other possessions and wars only give birth to other wars and cannot solve problems I make my seventh bow.

12. As I hold in my heart that the way to life-peace is to accept the world’s pain as my own pain I make my twelfth bow.

55. As I resolve to let go of chauvinistic nationalism which makes other countries insecure, I make my fifty fifth bow.

56. As I resolve to let go of the superiority of my religion which makes other faiths insecure, I make my fifty sixth bow.

72. As I resolve to respect all lives without any prejudice and bias, I make seventy second bow.

77. As I remember that the beginning of violence starts from my opinionated ideas and hatred towards others because of differences, I make my seventy seventh bow.

100. As I pray that the light that I kindle leads all sentient beings to live in peace and happiness, I make my one hundredth bow.

One day I was at Gangjeong Village recently we endured a cold wind and rain for the noon time “Human Chain” at the entrance of the Naval Base at Gangjeong Village. The winds were fierce — the southern coast is known for its very strong winds and one of the reasons why many were perplexed that the naval base was proposed for an area of the island where high winds and high seas are most frequent around the island.

Other days I’ve been here, the weather was nice for the singing and dancing in the roadway, reminding the South Korean Navy that the opposition to the construction of the naval base has not ended, despite the construction being complete.

This great public spirit continues to challenge the navy base and militarism with the noon dance. For those who have visited Gangjeong, both events and the sounds remain with us — as we remember that each day dedicated activists in Gangjeong Village continue the struggle against militarism.

Finding Part of Gureombi Rock

While I was in Gangjeong Village, the South Korean Navy had “Navy Week on Jeju Island.”  Navy weeks are designed as a public relations event to get favorable public opinion.

Most activists would not have been allowed on the navy base even if they had wanted to go — which they did not want to do. I wanted to see where the massive amount of concrete poured into the area had gone — so I produced my passport and I and another recent arrival were passed onto the base. We saw Aegis missile destroyer ships, helicopters, landing craft and demonstrations of martial arts.

But the most important thing we saw was what we think is the only remaining part of Gureombi Rock. Behind the first building on the left side of the main road past the entrance gate, is a small lake with one side of what appears to be a very small piece of the Gureombi Rock. The other side of the lake is composed of rock fill, but the northern side seems to be original rock.

The coastline surrounding Gangjeong Village consisted of one contiguous volcanic rock called Gureombi which was a 1.2 kilometer-long rock formed by lava flowing into the sea and rocks rising from the seabed. The estuary informed in this area was Jeju Island’s only rocky wetland and acted as home to several endangered species and soft coral reefs.

In 1991, the Jeju Provincial government designated the coastline surrounding Gangjeong Village an Absolute Conservation Area (ACA). In 2002, the area where the naval base construction is currently ongoing was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Conservation Area.

In December 2009, Jeju Island Governor Kim Tae-hwan nullified the ACA designation to proceed with the naval base construction. The Jeju Branch of the Korean Federation of Environmental Movements have criticized the Navy’s Environmental Impact Assessment noting that several endangered species are absent from the report.

During its recent archeological excavation of the Gangjeong coastal area, the Jeju Cultural Heritage Research Institute discovered artifacts dating back to 4-2 B.C.E. inside the naval base construction zone. According to the director of the Korean Cultural Heritage Policy Research Institute only 10 – 20 percent of the site was dug up during construction violating the cultural properties protection law.

At a talk that I gave two days later, many from the village discussed how to ensure that the tiny portion of Gureombi Rock remains intact and continues its cultural and spiritual ties to Gangjeong Village.

I mentioned that in some military bases in the United States, there are plaques to remind us of those who lived there before the U.S. government took over their lands. And even in the family housing area on the naval base, there are two murals that represent the indigenous peoples.

We hope that some type of mural will be created on the naval base depicting the importance of Gureombi Rocks so that hopefully the remaining rocks will not be blown up or concreted over.

Peace Farming

How do anti-war, peace activists in Gangjeong village support themselves? Some work in the Peace Farm Cooperative. Customers buy produce online from the Peace Cooperative.

One rainy morning Joan of Ark took us to two peace cooperative farms. The first was in the protected, covered greenhouse where they grow corn and beans. I asked how big the greenhouse was and she said 800 pyeongs — apparently a word indicating how big a grave should be — the length of a person’s body. An interesting way of measuring!

Then we went out of the village to their second farm in a … cemetery — or actually next to a cemetery where they grow corn and peanuts. The grass in the cemetery is allowed to grow over the gravestones and once a year a family may come to clear out the area around the gravestone. After 30 years, the family may have the ashes removed to another place.

Currie, an activist from the U.S., mentioned that in the U.S., some people want to be buried in a natural area where grass and weeds are allowed to grow, not in a formal cemetery.

The St. Francis Peace Center in Gangjeong Village has a remarkable history. In the 1970s, Father Mun was jailed for his protests during the military dictatorship and 30 years later he was awarded compensation for wrongful arrest and years in jail. With the compensation money, he purchased land overlooking the pale where the naval base was to be constructed.

The Bishop of Jeju Island decided to help build a peace center on the land — and now a wonderful place for those working for peace and social justice is in Gangjeong Village. It is a beautiful building with a fourth floor viewing area so the eyes of the peace house can alert the community to what the war machine is doing.

Ann Wright is a 29 veteran of the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was a US diplomat for 16 years and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the US government in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She is the co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

Parry to Appear Today on NPR’s ‘On Point’

Robert Parry will appear on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook on Monday, October 26, 2015 at 11:00 am for an hour-long discussion. Parry will explore the current situation of American journalism and what we’re not being told about the living history of our country.


You can stream the show live online or find a radio station near you.

For more information about the appearance, click here.

MH-17 Case: ‘Old’ Journalism vs. ‘New’

Exclusive: For skilled intelligence operatives, the Internet can be a devil’s playground, a place to circulate doctored photos, audio and documents, making investigations based on “social media” and such sources particularly risky, a point worth recalling in the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The first thing any thinking person learns about the Internet is not to trust everything you see there. While you can find much well-researched and reliable material, you’ll also encounter disinformation, spoofs, doctored photographs and crazy conspiracy theories. That would seem to be a basic rule of the Web caveat emptor and be careful what you do with the information unless you’re following a preferred neocon narrative. Then, nothing to worry about.

A devil-may-care approach to Internet-sourced material has been particularly striking when it comes to the case of the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. It has now become de rigueur on the part of the West’s mainstream news outlets to tout the dubious work of a British Internet outlet called Bellingcat, which bases its research on photographs and other stuff pulled off the Internet.

Bellingcat’s founder Eliot Higgins also has made journalistic errors that would have ended the careers of many true professionals, yet he continues to be cited and hailed by the likes of The New York Times and The Washington Post, which have historically turned up their noses about Internet-based journalism.

The secret to Higgins’s success seems to be that he reinforces what the U.S. government’s propagandists want people to believe but lack the credibility to sell. It’s a great business model, marketing yourself as a hip “citizen journalist” who just happens to advance Official Washington’s “group thinks.”

We saw similar opportunism among many wannabe media stars in 2002-03 when U.S. commentators across the political spectrum expressed certitude about Iraq’s hidden stockpiles of WMD. Even the catastrophic consequences of that falsehood did little to dent the career advancements of the Iraq-WMD promoters. There was almost no accountability, proving that there truly is safety in numbers. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Through the US Media Lens Darkly.”]

New Recruits

But there’s always room for new recruits. Blogger Higgins made his first splash by purporting to prove the accuracy of U.S. government claims about the Syrian government firing rockets carrying sarin gas that killed hundreds of civilians on Aug. 21, 2013, outside Damascus, an incident that came close to precipitating a major U.S. bombing campaign against the Syrian military.

Those of us who noted the startling lack of evidence in the Syria-sarin case much as we had questioned the Iraq-WMD claims in 2002-03 were brushed aside by Big Media which rushed to embrace Higgins who claimed to have proved the U.S. government’s charges. Even The New York Times clambered onboard the Higgins bandwagon.

Higgins and others mocked legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh when he cited intelligence sources indicating that the attack appeared to be a provocation staged by Sunni extremists to draw the U.S. military into the war, not an attack by the Syrian military.

Despite Hersh’s long record for breaking major stories including the My Lai massacre from the Vietnam War, the “Family Jewels” secrets of the CIA in the 1970s, and the Abu Ghraib torture during the Iraq War The New Yorker and The Washington Post refused to run his articles, forcing Hersh to publish in the London Review of Books.

Hersh was then treated like the crazy uncle in the attic, while Higgins an unemployed British bureaucrat operating from his home in Leicester, England was the new golden boy. While Higgins was applauded, Hersh was shunned.

But Hersh’s work was buttressed by the findings of top aeronautical scientists who studied the one rocket that carried sarin into the Damascus suburb of Ghouta and concluded that it could have traveled only about two kilometers, far less distance than was assumed by Official Washington’s “group think,” which had traced the firing position to about nine kilometers away at a Syrian military base near the presidential palace of Bashar al-Assad.

“It’s clear and unambiguous this munition could not have come from Syrian government-controlled areas as the White House claimed,” Theodore Postol, a professor in the Science, Technology, and Global Security Working Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told MintPress News.

Postol published “Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21st, 2013” in January 2014 along with Richard Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories who was a United Nations weapons inspector and has to his credit two books, 40 patents and more than 75 academic papers on weapons technology.

Postol added in the MintPress interview that Higgins “has done a very nice job collecting information on a website. As far as his analysis, it’s so lacking any analytical foundation it’s clear he has no idea what he’s talking about.”

In the wake of the Postol-Lloyd report, The New York Times ran what amounted to a grudging retraction of its earlier claims. Yet, to this day, the Obama administration has failed to withdraw  its rush-to-judgment charges against the Syrian government or present any verifiable evidence to support them.

This unwillingness of the Obama administration to fess up has served Higgins well, in that there is still uncertainty regarding the facts of the case. After all, once a good propaganda club is forged for bludgeoning an adversary, it’s not something Official Washington lays down easily. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.“]

The MH-17 Mystery

So, Higgins and Bellingcat moved on to the mystery surrounding MH-17, where again the Obama administration rushed to a judgment, pinning the blame on the Russians and ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine who were fighting the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev.

Though again hard evidence was lacking at least publicly Official Washington and its many minions around the world formed a new “group think” Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was responsible for the 298 deaths.

On July 20, 2014, just three days after the MH-17 shoot-down in an article with the definitive title “U.S. official: Russia gave systems,” The Washington Post reported that an anonymous U.S. official said the U.S. government had “confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border.”

This official told the Post that there wasn’t just one Buk battery, but three. The supposed existence of these Buk systems in the rebels’ hands was central to the case blaming Putin, who indeed would have been highly irresponsible if he had delivered such powerful weapons capable of hitting a commercial airliner flying at 33,000 feet as MH-17 was to a ragtag rebel force of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

But there were problems with this version, including the fact that as reflected in a “government assessment” from the Director of National Intelligence released on July 22, 2014, (or five days after the crash) U.S. intelligence listed other weapons allegedly provided by the Russians to the ethnic Russian rebels but not a Buk anti-aircraft missile system.

In other words, two days after the Post cited a U.S. official claiming that the Russians had given the rebels the Buks, the DNI’s “government assessment” made no reference to a delivery of one, let alone three powerful Buk batteries.

And that absence of evidence came in the context of the DNI larding the report with every possible innuendo to implicate the Russians, including references to “social media” entries. But there was no mention of a Buk delivery.

The significance of this missing link is hard to overstate. At the time eastern Ukraine was the focus of extraordinary U.S. intelligence collection because of the potential for the crisis to spin out of control and start World War III. Plus, a Buk missile battery is large and difficult to conceal. The missiles themselves are 16-feet-long and are usually pulled around by truck.

U.S. spy satellites, which supposedly can let you read a license plate in Moscow, surely would have picked up these images. And, if for some inexplicable reason a Buk battery was missed before July 17, 2014, it would surely have been spotted on an after-action review of the satellite imagery. But the U.S. government has released nothing of the kind not three, not two, not one.

Different Account

Instead, in the days after the MH-17 crash, I was told by a source that U.S. intelligence had spotted Buk systems in the area but they appeared to be under Ukrainian government control. The source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts said the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile was manned by troops dressed in what looked like Ukrainian uniforms.

At that point in time, the source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops were actually eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers involved were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Did US Spy Satellites See in Ukraine?”]

Subsequently, the source said, these analysts reviewed other intelligence data, including recorded phone intercepts, and concluded that the shoot-down was carried out by a rogue element of the Ukrainian government, working with a rabidly anti-Russian oligarch, but that senior Ukrainian leaders, such as President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, were not implicated. However, I have not been able to determine if this assessment was a dissident opinion or a consensus within U.S. intelligence circles.

Another intelligence source told me that CIA analysts did brief Dutch authorities during the preparation of the Dutch Safety Board’s report but that the U.S. information remained classified and unavailable for public release. In the Dutch report, there is no reference to U.S.-supplied information although the report reflects sensitive details about Russian-made weapons systems, secrets declassified by Moscow for the investigation.

Into this propaganda-laced controversy stepped Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat with their “citizen journalism” and Internet-based investigation. The core of their project was to scour the Internet for images purportedly of a Buk missile system rumbling through the eastern Ukrainian countryside in the days before the MH-17 crash. After finding several such images, Bellingcat insistently linked the Buk missiles to the Russians and the rebels.

Supposedly, this investigative approach is better than what we traditional journalists do in such cases, which is to find sources with vetted intelligence information and get them to share it with us, while also testing it out against verifiable facts and the views of outside experts. Our approach is far from perfect and often requires some gutsy whistle-blowing by honest officials but it is how many important secrets have been revealed.

A central flaw in the Internet-based approach is that it is very easy for a skilled propagandist in a government dirty-tricks office or just some clever jerk with Photoshop software to manufacture realistic-looking images or documents and palm them off either directly to gullible people or through propaganda fronts that appear as non-governmental entities but are really bought-and-paid-for conduits of disinformation.

This idea of filtering propaganda through supposedly disinterested and thus more credible outlets has been part of the intelligence community’s playbook for many years. I was once told by Gen. Edward Lansdale, one of the pioneers of CIA psychological operations, that his preference always was to plant propaganda in news agencies that were perceived as objective, that way people were more believing.

Lost Credibility

After the Pentagon Papers and Watergate scandals of the 1970s, when the American people were suspicious of whatever they heard from the U.S. government, the Reagan administration in the 1980s organized inter-agency task forces to apply CIA-style techniques to manage the perceptions of the U.S. public about foreign events. The architect was the CIA’s top propaganda specialist, Walter Raymond Jr., who was transferred to the National Security Council staff to skirt legal prohibitions against the CIA manipulating Americans.

Raymond, who counseled his subordinates in the art of gluing black hats on U.S. adversaries and white hats on U.S. friends, recommended that U.S. propaganda be funneled through organizations that had “credibility in the political center.” Among his favorite outlets were Freedom House, a non-governmental “human rights” group that was discreetly funded by the U.S. government, and the Atlantic Council, a think tank led by former senior U.S. government officials and promoting strong NATO ties. [For more background, see “How Reagan’s Propaganda Succeeded.”]

The same process continues to this day with some of the same trusted outlets, such as Freedom House and Atlantic Council, but requiring some new fronts that have yet to be identified as propaganda conduits. Many receive discreet or backdoor funding from the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy or other U.S. entities.

For instance, the U.S. Agency for International Development (along with billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Institute) funds the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which targets governments that have fallen into U.S. disfavor and which are then undermined by reporting that hypes alleged ties to organized crime and corruption. The USAID/Soros-funded OCCRP also collaborates with Bellingcat.

Higgins has become a favorite, too, of the Atlantic Council, which has partnered with him for a report about Russian involvement in the Ukraine conflict, and he wins praise from the Soros-financed Human Rights Watch, which has lobbied for U.S. military intervention against the Assad government in Syria. (Like Higgins, Human Rights Watch pushed discredited theories about where Syrian sarin-gas attack originated.)

Yet, because Higgins’s claims dovetail so neatly with U.S. government propaganda and neoconservative narratives, he is treated like an oracle by credulous journalists, the Oracle of Leicester. For instance, Australia’s “60 Minutes” dispatched a crew to Higgins’s house to get the supposed coordinates for where the so-called “Buk getaway video” was filmed another curious scene that appeared mysteriously on the Internet.

When “60 Minutes” got to the spot near Luhansk in eastern Ukraine where Higgins sent them, the location did not match up with the video. Although there were some billboards in the video and at the site in Luhansk, they were different shapes and all the other landmarks were off, too. Still, the Australian news crew pretended that it was at the right place, using some video sleight-of-hand to snooker the viewers.

However, when I published screen grabs of the getaway video and the Luhansk location, it was clear to anyone that the scenes didn’t match up.

Yet, instead of simply admitting that they were in error, the “60 Minutes” host did a follow-up insulting me, asserting that he had gone to the place identified by Higgins and claiming that there was a utility pole in the video that looked something like a utility pole in Luhansk.

At this point, the Australian program went from committing an embarrassing error to engaging in journalistic fraud. Beyond the fact that utility poles tend to look alike, nothing else matched up and, indeed, the landmarks around the utility poles were markedly different, too. A house next to the pole in the video didn’t appear in the scene filmed by the Australian crew. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Reckless Stand-upper on MH-17.”]

An Enduring Aura

But Higgins’s aura was such that objective reality and logic no longer seemed to matter. That two utility poles looked somewhat alike when nothing else in a video matched up at all somehow proved you were at the right location simply because the Oracle of Leicester had sent you there.

I’ve known many excellent journalists who saw their careers ended because they were accused of minor slip-ups on difficult stories when they were clearly correct on the big picture. Think, for instance, of the harsh treatment meted out to Gary Webb on Nicaraguan Contra drug trafficking and Mary Mapes on George W. Bush’s shirking his National Guard duty. But different rules clearly apply if you make serious errors in line with U.S. propaganda. For example, think of virtually the entire mainstream news media buying into the false Iraq-WMD claims and facing almost no accountability at all.

The second set of rules apparently applies to Higgins and Bellingcat, who have the mainstream U.S. media on bended knee despite a record of journalistic misfeasance or malfeasance. In editorials about the Dutch Safety Board report last week, both The New York Times and The Washington Post hailed Bellingcat as if they were recognizing that the old mainstream media had to rub shoulders with supposedly “new media” to have any credibility. It was a moment that would have made the CIA’s Lansdale and Raymond smile.

The Post’s neocon editorial writers, who have backed “regime change” in Iraq, Syria and other targeted countries, viewed the Dutch Safety Board report as vindicating the initial rush to judgment blaming the Russians and praised the work of Bellingcat although the Dutch report pointedly did not say who was responsible or even where the fatal missile was launched.

“More forensic investigation will be necessary to identify precisely where the missile came from, but the safety board identified a 123-square-mile area mostly held by the separatists,” the Post wrote, although a different way of saying the same thing would be to note that the launch area identified by the report could suggest the firing by either Ukrainian forces or the rebels.

The Post did observe what has been one of my repeated complaints — that the Obama administration is withholding the U.S. intelligence evidence that Secretary of State John Kerry claimed three days after the shoot-down had identified the precise location of the launch.

Yet, the subsequent U.S. silence on that point has been the dog not barking. Why would the U.S. government, which has been trying to pin the shoot-down on the Russians, hide such crucial evidence unless perhaps it doesn’t corroborate the desired anti-Putin propaganda theme?

Yet, the Post sought to turn this otherwise inexplicable U.S. silence into further condemnation of Putin, writing: “A Dutch criminal investigation is underway that may identify the individuals who ordered and carried out the shootdown. We hope the prosecutors will have access to precise data scooped up by U.S. technical means at the time of the shootdown, which made clear the responsibility of Russian-backed forces.”

So, the Post sees nothing suspicious about the U.S. government’s sudden reticence after its initial loud rush-to-judgment. Note also the Post’s lack of skepticism about what these “technical means” had scooped up. Though the U.S. government has refused to release this evidence in effect, giving those responsible for the shoot-down a 15-month head start to get away and cover their tracks the Post simply takes the official word that the Russians are responsible.

Then comes the praise for Bellingcat: “Already, outside investigations based on open sources and social media, such as by the citizen journalist group Bellingcat, have shown the Buk launcher was probably wheeled into Ukraine in June from the Russian 53rd Air Defense Brigade, based outside Kursk. The criminal probe should aim to determine whether Russian servicemen were operating the unit when it was fired or helping the separatists fire it.”

No Skepticism

Again, the Post shows little skepticism about this version of events, leaving only the question of whether Russian soldiers fired the missile themselves or helped the rebels fire it. But there are obvious problems with this narrative. If, indeed, the one, two or three Russian Buk batteries were rumbling around eastern Ukraine the month before the shoot-down, why did neither U.S. intelligence nor Ukrainian intelligence notice this?

And, we know from the Dutch report that the Ukrainians were insisting up until the shoot-down that the rebels had no surface-to-air missiles that could threaten commercial airliners at 33,000 feet. However, the Ukrainians did have Buk systems that they were positioning toward the east, presumably to defend against possible Russian air incursions.

On July 16, 2014, one day before MH-17 was hit, a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter-jet was shot down by what Ukrainian authorities said was an air-to-air missile, according to the Dutch report. Presumably the missile was fired by a Russian fighter patrolling the nearby border.

So, if the Ukrainians already believed that Russian warplanes were attacking along the border, it would make sense that Ukrainian air defense units would be on a hair-trigger about shooting down Russian jets entering or leaving Ukrainian airspace.

Even if you don’t want to believe what I was told about U.S. intelligence analysts suspecting that a rogue Ukrainian military operation targeted MH-17, doesn’t it make sense that an undisciplined Ukrainian anti-aircraft battery might have mistakenly identified MH-17 as a Russian military aircraft leaving Ukrainian airspace? The Ukrainians had the means and the opportunity and possibly a motive after the shoot-down of the SU-25 just one day earlier.

The Dutch Safety Board report is silent, too, on the question raised by Russian officials as to why the Ukrainians had turned on their radar used to guide Buk missiles in the days before MH-17 was shot down. That allegation is neither confirmed nor denied.

Regarding Bellingcat’s reliance on Internet-based photos to support its theories, there is the additional problem of Der Spiegel’s report last October revealing that the German intelligence agency, the BND, challenged some of the images provided by the Ukrainian government as “manipulated.” According to Der Spiegel, the BND blamed the rebels for firing the fateful Buk but said the missile battery came not from the Russians but from Ukrainian government stockpiles. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Germans Clear Russia in MH-17 Case.”]

However, a European source told me that the BND’s information was not as categorical as Der Spiegel reported. And, according to the Dutch report, the Ukrainian government reported that a Buk system that the rebels captured from a Ukrainian air base was not operational, a point where the rebels are in agreement. They also say they had no working Buks.

Yet, even without the BND’s warning, great caution should be shown when using evidence deposited often anonymously on the Internet. The idea of “crowd-sourcing” these investigations also raises the possibility that a skillful disinformationist could phony up a photograph and then direct an unwitting or collaborating reporter to the image.

Though I am no expert in the art of doctoring photographs, my journalism training has taught me to approach every possible flaw in the evidence skeptically. That’s especially true when some anonymous blogger directs you to an image or article whose bona fides cannot be established.

One of the strengths of old-fashioned journalism was that you could generally count on the professional integrity of the news agencies distributing photographs. Even then, however, there have been infamous cases of misrepresentations and hoaxes. Those possibilities multiply when images of dubious provenance pop up on the Internet.

In the case of MH-17, some photo analysts have raised specific questions about the authenticity of images used by Bellingcat and others among the “Russia-did-it” true-believers. We have already seen in the case of the “Buk-getaway video” how Higgins sent a reporting team from Australia’s “60 Minutes” halfway around the world to end up at the wrong spot (but then to use video fakery to deceive the viewers).

So, the chances of getting duped must be taken into account when dealing with unverifiable sources of information, a risk that rises exponentially when there’s also the possibility of clever intelligence operatives salting the Internet with disinformation. For the likes of psy-ops innovator Lansdale and propaganda specialist Raymond, the Internet would have been a devil’s playground.

Which is one more reason why President Barack Obama should release as much of the intelligence evidence as he can that pinpoints where the fateful MH-17 missile was fired and who fired it. [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Plays Games with MH-17 Tragedy.”]

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). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

War on Terror v. Climate Change

Despite President Obama’s support for global cooperation on the pressing crisis of climate change, he was back at the more destructive and distressing business of cobbling together a new “coalition of the willing” for the latest expansion of the “war on terror,” as Danny Schechter notes.

By Danny Schechter

On Sunday, the world came together to demand climate justice with massive marches of solidarity and positivity. On Monday, the UN prepared for its global climate summit with more than l00 Heads of State, some there as ornaments, others as advocates for changes in environmental conditions that threaten the survival of many nations and peoples.

On Monday afternoon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change Washington’s No. 1 priority. On Monday night, I was in New York with the visiting President of South Africa marking 20 years of freedom in that country after the overthrow of apartheid. I saw no American officials present.

Back home, on Monday evening, the news was out: the United States was then heavily bombing Syria for the first time with the support of a mélange of Arab dictators and theocracies, using planes we sold them, to make some point about Western commitment to freedom.

The jihadists are already vowing retribution, according to SITE, the pro-Israeli “intelligence” website that is relaying all of their videos, no doubt to frighten us more.

Washington claims support from 40 nations. The Christian Science Monitor reports, “Americans can be forgiven if this reminds them of the “coalition of the willing” President George W. Bush claimed to have when the US invaded and occupied Iraq 11 years ago.”

Adds political scientist Michael Brenner: “the so-called ‘coalition of the willing’ will not amount to much except for its contribution of money to anti-IS forces of various hues, and the aforementioned American airstrikes. So long as no regional states are prepared to send in competent troops, their military role will be marginal at best. In regard to drying up IS’ supply of recruits from places beyond Syria and Iraq, the prospects are not promising.”

How fast we’ve moved from peace to war, from hope to despair.

Of course, like so many reports about U.S. military action, there was no mention of civilian casualties or other “collateral damage.” It was assumed by a press that marches in lockstep with the Pentagon that the strikes were surgical, hit their targets and damaged an enemy that earlier in the week released a video almost inviting such a strike, perhaps to show how bad and powerful they claimed to be.

The New York Times, to its credit, called the attacks “risky” and reported that “after six weeks of western air support in Iraq, Iraqi forces have barely budged Islamic State fighters.”

The U.S. government refused to estimate what all this would cost. And of course, there was this political calculation driving the turn to war, as revealed by Politico:

“With his new offensive against Islamic State terrorists in Syria, Barack Obama has a chance to revive his presidency, but the only way he can do that is to become a brand-new president, one who will be almost unrecognizable to his supporters. Obama must go from being the president who was elected to end wars, his most treasured self-image, to the president who finally leads one effectively. And he must now do it in two countries where for most of his presidency he has most resisted getting more deeply involved, Iraq and Syria.”

As the bombs fell, another video began airing, lacking the overproduction Hollywood glitz for which ISIS has become known, but, instead, offered up a simple stripped down “lecture” by British hostage John Cantlie, who says he is a doing it because his government abandoned him and he has no choice.

While it surely is a propaganda effort, Cantlie makes a point that most of our media has not had the guts to make, saying, quite sensibly and in an understated way, “In this program, we’ll see how the Western Governments are hastily marching towards all-out war in Iraq and Syria without paying any heed to the lessons of the recent past.” And then, the V-word was introduced for the first time: “Not since Vietnam have we witnessed such a potential mess in the making.”

Interestingly, a day earlier, I had an email from the Vietnamese-American filmmaker, Tiana, who is finishing a film on Vietnam’s victorious General Giap who held off the foreign invaders and turned the tide against them.

Tiana was asking for my advice on how to present the enormous scale of the body count after the first invasion. There were 500,000 deaths among the French forces, including civilians and the African people they brought to fight for them in a defense of colonialism that the U.S. supported first with money, then, threats of nuclear war and, finally, with some 60,000 American lives.

Remember that the U.S. escalation in Vietnam came during the presidency of a “liberal” Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, just as this war  (or show of war) is being launched by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Barack Obama. (Don’t forget that Henry Kissinger won the Nobel for his role as a peacemaker in that carnage, while his counterpart, the Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho, rejected and denounced the Prize.)

There are analysts who believe that by reacting the way Washington is to ISIS, the U.S. is actually playing into their script and building their prestige.

Ultimately, this is a propaganda war, not just a military conflict. It is to influence the direction of the Arab World. We have already seen interviews with ordinary people in Iraq who say that government-backed troops there have been more brutal to them than ISIS. They don’t feel like they have many good options.

Of course, most Americans stopped paying attention to Iraqi realities years ago, and never realized that we lost the war. Today, as crazy as this must sound to us, ISIS (IS) is posing as liberators, even as they march into the past. For many ordinary Sunni Arabs who have been humiliated by a succession of leaders we imposed, that “heroic” past, may sound better that a worsening present.

In some ways, the U.S. bombardment will conjure up bad memories for Iraqis and do what bombing always does: stiffen resistance.

The Commander in Chief seems to be glowing as he and his “team” reach into an overused playbook, says Michael Brenner:

“The most likely course will be for Washington to do what it’s accustomed to doing. That means leaning heavily toward employing military assets which are available in abundance. That carries with it a heavy liability. Every bomb dropped risks radicalizing those on the receiving end who may be innocent or relatives of combatants. When bullets fired by troops on the ground are added to the bombs, the negative effect is magnified. Moreover, the very knowledge that the United States is again killing Muslims may register in the same way. After a decade of killing (many Sunni) Muslims with no good cause, the claim the United States is now killing them with cause is less than wholly persuasive,”

They may be talking climate change at the UN, but the media world is showing pictures of bombs bursting in air and changing the global conversation about a planet in peril, a discussion that the world has been waiting for.

We will soon be back in the flag-saluting abyss of paranoia with predictable results once the “terries,” as they are known, strike their first blow here. So far, only a deranged vet has penetrated the White House perimeter, but who knows what’s next?

Actions produce reactions. Always have; always will. And, yes, sad to report, more Americans will die as things get worse, as they surely will. We have seen this movie before.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs daily at Newsdissector.net and edits Mediachannel.org. He wrote two books and made a film about the Iraq war. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org.