Thursday, 29 November 2018

A Great British Injustice: the Maguire Story

When Gerry Conlon’s conviction for the 1974 Guildford pub bombings was quashed in 1989, after he had been in prison for 15 years, he gave a furious statement outside the Old Bailey, vowing to continue the fight for justice. “I’m a totally innocent man. I watched my father die in a British prison for something he didn’t do. He is innocent. The Maguires are innocent,” he shouted. Daniel Day Lewis gave a version of the speech when he played Conlon in In The Name of the Father, which told the story of the Guildford Four. A Great British Injustice: The Maguire Story(BBC Two) focuses instead on the family who were also caught up in the miserable saga and whose lives were devastated by the same shocking miscarriage of justice.

It is an outrageous story told by those at the centre of it, and it is a testament to the strength of the surviving Maguires that they are able to talk about it with such clarity. Conlon’s false confession implicated his father’s sister-in-law, Anne Maguire, who was arrested in Kilburn, north-west London, by police who insisted the Maguire family home was also a bomb factory. The use of archive footage does a remarkable job of conjuring up the atmosphere of the 1970s, when anti-Irish sentiment in the UK had been whipped up against a backdrop of IRA bombings. One news report from the time painted Anne as “Auntie Annie”, a sleeper agent who had disguised herself as a quiet family woman, storing bombs in the kitchen “as you might store corned beef”.

“I couldn’t even put a fuse in that plug,” says Anne Maguire today, still incredulous, admitting that she weeps even now over the long, wasted years that followed. Along with her brother-in-law Giuseppe Conlon, her brother Sean Smyth, a family friend Patrick O’Neill, her husband Patrick, and her two teenage sons, Vincent and Patrick, she was eventually convicted of possessing nitroglycerine, based on traces of explosives found underneath their fingernails, or in Anne’s case, on a pair of gloves. The Maguire Seven, as they became known, served sentences ranging from four to 14 years, apart from Giuseppe Conlon, Gerry’s father, who died in prison in 1980. Their convictions were eventually quashed in 1991, the forensic evidence, the only evidence, widely dismissed.

Presenter Stephen Nolan is not quite an impartial observer, and this is an emotional, invested documentary, in which he has fostered the trust of the surviving Maguires, who open up to him about the terrible effects these wrongful convictions wrought upon their lives. The younger Patrick [photo, top] was 14 when he was sent to a category A adult prison. His face cracking with pain throughout his story, he explains that he believes his childhood ended there. Anne remembers being so affronted by what they had been accused of she asked the police van to let her out into a crowd of anti-Irish protesters bearing placards that called for her to be hanged. “Let me out and I’ll tell them we’re not those people,” she said. They talk of violent beatings by the officers who questioned them; Anne says she had a gun held to her head. “None of you broke,” says Nolan to Vincent Maguire. “We had nothing to break for,” he replies.

In among the layers of corruption and incompetence – other confessions that were not investigated, alibis ignored – there are moments that would be written out of a potboiler for stretching credulity. Nobody bothered to find out that Anne and her husband Patrick were members of the local Conservative club, or that he had served in the British army. Anne talks of being punched and kicked by interrogating officers, but even in her recollections of what they said to her, she can’t bring herself to use their language. “Get up, you Irish ‘B’, you murdering ‘B’,” she reports, instead.

In 2005, the then prime minister Tony Blair offered a formal apology to the Maguires, but, as with the quashed conviction, they do not see it as a cause for celebration. Nolan presses the point that, even now, justice has not been done: nobody has been held responsible. And yet, it manages to end on as touching a note as is possible, when, at the close of a brutal testimony, Patrick declares himself to be lucky to have had Anne as his mother. This is a harrowing story, infuriating and awful and tragic, but the participants have found what light they could, where they could find it.

Watch it on BBC iPlayer.

Source of review.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Stop the Presses: Nigel Farage has moment of lucidity, calls Tommy Robinson 'a thug'

Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson has been appointed as an adviser to Ukip leader Gerard Batten (David Mirzoeff/PA)
But Mr Farage said Mr Batten was taking the eurosceptic party in a “shameful” direction.
“I was always insistent as leader that nobody could join us if they’d been members of the EDL or the British National Party,” Mr Farage told the Press Association.
“I wanted to make tough arguments about illegal immigration, what was happening in the Mediterranean and all the rest of it without any taint of racism or Islamophobia.
“I can’t believe that the current Ukip leader wants to welcome in the founder of the EDL, a man who’s done four prison sentences, lives under a pseudonym and wherever he goes there’s violence.
“The whole thing is crazy. And this at the very moment when Brexit is in a right mess, when both Tories and the Labour Party are breaking their promises to the electorate.
“There’s a massive opportunity for Ukip, a big opportunity for millions to say to the Government Brexit is not going the right way, and all Gerard Batten wants to do is get this, frankly, thug involved with the party.”
Mr Farage said he was concerned a pro-Brexit rally Mr Batten and Mr Robinson are planning for December 9 in London could undermine efforts to defeat Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement in a Commons vote in the following days.
“It’s a march through Westminster,” said Mr Farage.
“I know what will happen. It will be full of skinheads and people with tattoos to the eyeballs, they’ll all be drunk before they get there, there’ll be punch-ups and God knows what.
“And the next day, it’s the vote on the Brexit thing.
“And this is how Brexit will look, it’ll look like a bunch of far-right football thugs, and I am absolutely disgusted by it.
“I’ve held my silence as a former party leader until now but we now have to get rid of this bloke as leader because he’s not just damaging Ukip, he’s damaging Brexit.”
Mr Farage did not rule out returning as a candidate for the Ukip leadership himself but said it was “not top of my bucket list” after having already devoted 20 years to the party.
“If it had to be done, I’d consider it,” he told PA.


Khagoggi Murder: Trump says a bad (again)

PALM BEACH (FLORIDA): US President Donald Trump on Thursday contradicted the CIA's assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, insisting that the agency had "feelings" but did not firmly place blame for the death. Trump, in defiant remarks to reporters from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, defended his continued support for Mohammed in the face of a CIA assessment that the crown prince had ordered the killing.
"He denies it vehemently," Trump said of the crown prince. He reiterated that his own conclusion was that "maybe he did, maybe he didn't."
"I hate the crime, I hate the coverup. I will tell you this: The crown prince hates it more than I do, and they have vehemently denied it," Trump said. Mohammed has not shown remorse for the killing, which was carried out by some of his close advisers.
Asked who should be held accountable for the death of Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey on October 2, Trump again refused to place blame - instead espousing a grim view of the world that he often shares with advisers.

"Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a very, very vicious place," the president said.

He also seemed to suggest that all US allies were guilty of the same behavior, declaring that if others were held to the standard to which critics have held Saudi Arabia in recent days, "we wouldn't be able to have anyone for an ally."
Trump said "not at all" when asked if he was concerned that his refusal to substantially punish Saudi Arabia would send a message to the rest of the world that people in power can do as they please.
The president has grown annoyed with the constant attention on the killing, advisers say, and sought to effectively close the matter Tuesday with an eight-paragraph, exclamation-mark-packed statement that smeared Khashoggi, questioned the CIA and praised Saudi Arabia.

Stark. Raving. Bonkers. In a nutshell...


Monday, 19 November 2018

U.S. Declines to Sign Declaration Discouraging Use of Cyberattacks

WASHINGTON — Reflecting reluctance by the Trump administration to limit its options for using offensive and defensive cyberweapons, the United States declined on Monday to sign a vaguely worded international call to protect civilians against cyberattacks and discourage digital meddling in elections.

The United States was one of only a few Western nations that chose not to sign on to the nonbinding declaration, which was released by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, during the Paris Peace Forum, timed to the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

The declaration, the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace,” was signed by 51 countries, more than 130 companies and 90 universities and nongovernmental groups, and was the latest in a series of efforts to move toward what some call a “digital Geneva Convention.”

Just as the original Geneva Convention prohibits aiming attacks at civilians, the Paris statement would prohibit “indiscriminate or systemic harm to individuals and critical infrastructure,” such as shutting down an electric grid.

It also included a call to “prevent malign interference by foreign actors aimed at undermining electoral processes though malicious cyberactivities.”

All members of the European Union signed the agreement. Australia and Turkey joined the United States in declining.

Mr. Macron aimed the accord largely at democracies, which meant that the countries most often accused of conducting state-sponsored attacks — Russia, China, North Korea and Iran — did not participate in the process.

Israel, which along with the United States conducted the most sophisticated cyberattack in history, the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, also declined to sign.


But if past debates over setting norms of behavior for cyberspace are a guide, American officials are leery of any kind of agreement that might make illegal the types of activity — like espionage, data manipulation or attacks on infrastructure — that the United States may want to use in a future conflict.

Elections are an interesting example. Congress and many others have condemned the 2016 Russian attacks on the Democratic National Committee and the private email accounts of senior officials in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But the United States has interfered in foreign elections before, including Italy in the 1940s and Iran and Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s, and some officials say that no American president should be forced to give up that tool if it could prevent a war.


Sunday, 18 November 2018

Trump: Making Rich Great Again

The Trump-GOP tax law was sold as a boon for the middle class. But many months after its passage, there are no signs that working Americans are getting the pay raise they were promised.

The Trump administration claimed the corporate tax cuts would eventually lead to wage increases of up to $9,000 a year for ordinary workers. But so far, workers’ wages remain stagnant.

Tracking by Americans for Tax Fairness shows that only about 400 out of America’s 5.9 million employers have announced any wage increases or one-time bonuses related to the tax cuts. That’s about 0.007 percent.

In fact, real wages have actually declined since last year after accounting for higher gas prices, prescription drug prices, and other rising costs.

If that weren’t bad enough, Trump and the GOP now want to come after the services that working families rely on.

Shortly after signing the tax cut package that will add nearly $2 trillion to the deficit over a decade, Trump proposed a budget that would cut $1.3 trillion for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Cart Act. The House Republican budget went even further, proposing $2.1 trillion in health care cuts.

Both budget proposals contained hundreds of billions more in cuts to food assistance, income security, education, and more.

Working families are seeing little benefit from the Trump-GOP tax giveaway — and would be devastated by the cuts to services that have been proposed to help pay for it. But a few people are basking in their new tax-cut windfalls:

President Trump: Though he claimed his tax plan would “cost him a fortune,” the new law will undoubtedly make him one.

Trump refuses to release his tax returns, so we can’t know his exact savings. But he’ll benefit greatly from the lower top individual tax rate, the lower corporate tax rate, and especially from the 20 percent deduction for “pass-through” business income (income from S corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, and sole proprietorships that’s taxed at the individual rather than the corporate level).

The Trump Organization, which is a collection of 500 pass-throughs, could save over $20 million a year from that deduction alone. And the law gifted Trump’s industry — real estate — with myriad new loopholes.

Read who else is benefiting from tax-cut windfalls.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Is Stephen Pax Leonard an arsehole?


Paxie is the academic who got into a spot of bother over some racist tweets.

Here's what he tweeted:

He had his honorary fellowship removed by St Chad’s College after complaints were made about tweets, which have since been deleted. One said: “With so few Jews it is extraordinary that the [Swedish] print media is largely owned and edited by Jewish families.” Another stated that Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, wanted the capital “to become a mecca for Muslims” and that “millions of Muslims support Isis”.

Both first statements are the racist, paranoid rantings of an idiot who believes some minority or other is taking over a city/a country/the press/name your pick, it's just Classic racist garbage and un-befitting of an academic. Re. the last statement, Paxie might want to consider the the vast majority of Isis' victims are in fact Muslims.

Paxie claims that his statements have been "decontextualised" [gulp!] and that we should read his books [no thanks!] but has as far as I know has not provided such context. And in any case it's difficult to see what kind of context might make these statements less racist.

Was his removal from Durham justified? OF COURSE NOT! Penalising free speech that way solves nothing, quite the contrary.

Finally, SPL describes himself as a 'green Conservative', which only shows that being green does not inoculate one against idiocy.

Engineered inequality? Jason Hickel, anthropologist at the University of London

It took a quarter of a century since the collapse of the Soviet Union for the issue of inequality to resurface at the center of political and economic debate – this time in the West. Some would even argue it has already sparked a populist revolution, culminating, for now, with the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. Will the Western quest to end inequality be more successful than the Soviet one? To discuss this, Oksana Boyko is joined by Jason Hickel, anthropologist at the University of London.

Friday, 16 November 2018

The day the CIA went SciFi: Project Medication

Ah, the good ole'CIA; the evil gift that keeps on giving. Recently the ACLU has gotten hold of a secret CIA document that shows a plan to test drugs on prisoners:

Now we’ve won the release of a 90-page account of the CIA’s Office of Medical Services role in the CIA torture program — a secret history written by the top CIA medical official, whose identity remains classified.
The history reveals that CIA doctors were hunting for a “truth serum” to use on prisoners as part of a previously secret effort called Project Medication. The CIA studied records of old Soviet drug experiments as well as the CIA’s notorious and discredited MK-Ultra program, which involved human experimentation with LSD and other drugs on unwitting subjects. The CIA doctors involved in Project Medication wanted to use Versed, a psychoactive drug similar to some of those used in MK-Ultra, on prisoners.
The CIA ignored lessons from its own history. After MK-Ultra was shut down, the CIA director testified in 1977, “It is totally abhorrent to me to think of using humans as guinea pigs.” But decades later, the agency decided to experiment on humans again, testing pseudoscientific theories of “learned helplessness” on its prisoners.
While Project Medication never got off the ground, CIA medical professionals remained critical participants in experimenting with torture. Just like the government lawyers who tried to give unlawful torture a veneer of legality, the secret history reveals that CIA doctors were “indispensable” to the effort of “legitimizing the program.”

Full story.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Is the US seeking regime change in Iran?

John Bolton recently emphatically denied it was:

WASHINGTON — White House national security adviser John Bolton claimed Monday that the Trump administration is not seeking regime change in Iran even as it moves to reimpose sanctions on the Islamic Republic that had been lifted by the Obama administration as part of a 2015 nuclear agreement.
“Our policy is not regime change,” he said during an interview on Fox News. “We want to put unprecedented pressure on the government of Iran to change its behavior. And so far they’ve shown no indication they’re prepared to do that.”

But Bolton remains the strongest advocate of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), the extreme Iranian opposition group who was the target of a foiled bombing attack in France, and was once a sworn enemy of the United States:

It was only in 2012 that the US delisted it as a terrorist group. But the arrival of John Bolton, the MeK’s most powerful advocate, as US national security adviser has given the group unprecedented proximity to the White House and a new lease of political life.
“There is a viable opposition to the rule of the ayatollahs, and that opposition is centred in this room today,” Bolton said at an MeK rally in Paris last year. “The behaviour and objectives of the regime are not going to change, and therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself.”
Bolton’s ascent to the White House has reinvigorated the group, analysts say, raising questions about the dangers of having in the earshot of the US president a group that some experts say uses human rights concerns to bury its murky past and portray itself as a democratic and popular alternative to the Islamic Republic.

Bolton and the MeK sure make strange bedfellows:

Believed to have between 5,000 to 13,000 members, the MeK was established in the 1960s to express a mixture of Marxism and Islamism. It launched bombing campaigns against the Shah, continuing after the 1979 Islamic revolution, against the Islamic Republic. In 1981, in a series of attacks, it killed 74 senior officials, including 27 MPs. Later that year, its bombings killed Iran’s president and prime minister.

Now remember Operation Ajax? It's very unlikely that the Iranian people will bow to external pressure to remove the Ayatollah regime. The coup against Mossadegh ultimately led to Khomeiny's Islamic revolution. Will Washington/MeK want to go down that route again? Is our children learning?

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Gaza burns hotter than Hollywood but there's nobody to put the fires out

George Galloway.

The world is fixated by the forest fires in Hollywood burning down stars' mansions. With supreme irony some of them belong to those who helped raise millions of dollars for the Israeli Army which is now burning the hovels of Gaza.

The Hollywood warriors have insurance of course, and other homes too, sometimes many of them. The hovel-dwellers of Gaza have neither.

The brave firefighters of California are well-equipped and have the wind of hope of millions of well-wishers at their backs. There are no firefighters in Gaza.

The hovels of Gaza are unfortunately well-known to me, since long before Hamas even existed. In fact I saw Hamas be born, and Israel was the midwife. I was a comrade of Yasser Arafat then the Chairman of the secular PLO, an Arab nationalist, whose executive committee consisted of Arab nationalists and Moscow-aligned leftists like the PFLP led by the late Dr George Habash.

Israel feared this then zeitgeist in the Arab world so they turned, as the British had earlier in seeking to undermine Egypt's President Nasser, to the Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood, a client of the British in Egypt had brothers in Gaza of course. Those brothers became Hamas with the full cooperation of Israel.

I saw with my own eyes the open development of Islamism in Gaza, a catspaw against Arafat and the PLO. While the gaols (and the graveyards) were full of PLO men, the roads were choc-a-block with Islamist society vehicles. Communities were served by Islamic schools, hospitals & civic-society institutions of all kinds. Permitted, encouraged, sometimes financed by Israel. It was divide and rule in perfect harmony.

Of course, that was nearly 40 years ago and none of the leaders of Hamas then are still alive - by one means or another. The Hamas Israel thought it was developing as a client long-ago outgrew that role and is now a formidable fighting force which can be slaughtered from the air of course (along with anyone nearby) but on the ground, face to face, not so much.

Whilst a ceasefire was in place and peace talks were taking place in Cairo between Israel and Hamas, Netanyahu sent a special forces commando undercover into Gaza to assassinate a Hamas military commander and in the accompanying firefight an Israeli commander was slain. And all hell broke loose. As I write the dogs of war are unleashed and havoc has ensued.

Increasingly accurate Hamas missiles have been fired with greater accuracy and quantity. Israeli warplanes are bombing and rocketing like there was no tomorrow (with an unlimited guarantee of more from Donald Trump). This week the Palestinian television station Al Aqsa was eviscerated in an air-strike about which the Israeli government boasted on Twitter. Like Yugoslav TV in Belgrade, like the Al Jazeera TV station in Baghdad, the slaughter of tea-ladies, make up departments, camera-operators and of course journalists has elicited only stony-silence from Western media outlets.

The fourth estate, rightly scandalized by the kidnap, torture, murder and dismemberment of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, is unmoved by the dismemberment of Palestinian journalists.

The media solidarity, triggered by Donald Trump withdrawing the White House credentials of CNN journalist Jim Acosta, who none of us had ever heard of, working for a station that none of us ever watches, was impressive. The withdrawal of the life's blood of TV make-up ladies hasn't even made the news, especially on CNN.

For them as with the other Western fake-news machines, the clock starts ticking when Israel says it does and when Israel "responds". That the response is a response to a provocation matters not a jot or tittle.

In any case, nobody working in the Western media today either knows or cares that the root cause of this is the existence of the barbed wire enclave called Gaza.

Two million Palestinians locked in a tiny strip of land (it's called the Gaza Strip for a reason) with no entry or exit guaranteed and overwhelmingly refused. Eighty percent of those two million are refugees there, looking through the barbed wire at their own property now occupied by others. When they approach the fence they are mercilessly cut down by snipers.

Since March, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been wounded at the Gaza fence. Hundreds have been killed including children, women, nurses and of course the press. Hundreds of limbs have been amputated, many have been blinded, left eyeless in Gaza. They were unarmed, in their "own territory" and had not remotely reached the fence which, entirely unilaterally, the Israelis have demarcated as their border.

Throughout the last ten years or more the Palestinians in Gaza have endured bitter cold in winter & baking heat in summer, with deliberately-rationed electricity supplies controlled by Israel. Often there is none, at best four hours per day. Medical supplies and foodstuffs frequently perish as refrigeration fails.

Israel controls the water supply too and most of Gaza never has access to clean potable water.

Even the sea off Gaza is remorselessly controlled with abundant fish-stocks only harvestable by fisherman at the risk of their lives which are frequently lost.

It is a ghetto of suppurating suffering. It is a crucifixion of an entire population. But it is not the whole story.

The whole story goes back much farther and is beyond the scope of this article. Palestine no longer exists, it is wiped off the map. Its people are scattered to the four corners of the earth as exiles and refugees, or live in the Bantustans of the West Bank, the illegally annexed Holy City of Jerusalem, or in besieged Gaza. Until this is resolved and as long as a single Palestinian remains alive there will be resistance, there will be trouble. It is this story that all the world's governments and all their institutions have singularly failed to meaningfully address.

And so for now, and for the future, there will be much wailing, rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth in the Terra Santa.


Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Microsoft dilemma


In Europe, the information technology of every state administration and its institutions – military, police, fiscal authorities etc. – is based on Microsoft programs. This exposes us to a high technical and political security risk. Is our digital sovereignty at stake?

Microsoft is generally considered the dinosaur of the digital age, lagging behind data giants Google, Facebook and Amazon. However, the US corporation is more powerful today than ever before. The power of its monopoly is nowhere more apparent than in Europe: from Finland to Portugal, from Ireland to Greece, the information technology of every state administration and its institutions – military, police, fiscal authorities etc. – is based on Microsoft programs. But since digital systems are constantly expanding and increasing in importance, countries are becoming more and more dependent on this single company; and increasingly vulnerable to the weak points inherent in Microsoft. The worldwide “WannaCry” cyberattack, for example, occurred as a result of security vulnerability at Microsoft. This dependence causes continually rising costs – around €50 billion in licensing fees every year – and prevents technical progress in state authorities. It systematically undermines European procurement and competition laws, and leads inevitably to the company having an overwhelming political influence. It also exposes state IT systems, along with citizens’ data, to a high technical and political security risk. Is Europe’s digital sovereignty at stake?

Due to copyright restrictions, this video can only be viewed on RT’s live feed.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Amidst all that talk of Russia/China meddling...

Consortium News, Sept. 2014

If you wonder how the world could stumble into World War III much as it did into World War I a century ago all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire U.S. political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats vs. black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason.

The original lie behind Official Washington’s latest “group think” was that Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the crisis in Ukraine as part of some diabolical scheme to reclaim the territory of the defunct Soviet Union, including Estonia and other Baltic states. Though not a shred of U.S. intelligence supported this scenario, all the “smart people” of Washington just “knew” it to be true.

Yet, the once-acknowledged though soon forgotten reality was that the crisis was provoked last year by the European Union proposing an association agreement with Ukraine while U.S. neocons and other hawkish politicos and pundits envisioned using the Ukraine gambit as a way to undermine Putin inside Russia.

The plan was even announced by U.S. neocons such as National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman who took to the op-ed page of the Washington Post nearly a year ago to call Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step toward eventually toppling Putin in Russia.

Gershman, whose NED is funded by the U.S. Congress, wrote: “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents. Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

In other words, from the start, Putin was the target of the Ukraine initiative, not the instigator. But even if you choose to ignore Gershman’s clear intent, you would have to concoct a bizarre conspiracy theory to support the conventional wisdom about Putin’s grand plan.

To believe that Putin was indeed the mastermind of the crisis, you would have to think that he somehow arranged to have the EU offer the association agreement last year, then got the International Monetary Fund to attach such draconian “reforms” that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych backed away from the deal.

Then, Putin had to organize mass demonstrations at Kiev’s Maidan square against Yanukovych while readying neo-Nazi militias to act as the muscle to finally overthrow the elected president and replace him with a regime dominated by far-right Ukrainian nationalists and U.S.-favored technocrats. Next, Putin had to get the new government to take provocative actions against ethnic Russians in the east, including threatening to outlaw Russian as an official language.

And throw into this storyline that Putin all the while was acting like he was trying to help Yanukovych defuse the crisis and even acquiesced to Yanukovych agreeing on Feb. 21 to accept an agreement brokered by three European countries calling for early Ukrainian elections that could vote him out of office. Instead, Putin was supposedly ordering neo-Nazi militias to oust Yanukovych in a Feb. 22 putsch, all the better to create the current crisis.

While such a fanciful scenario would make the most extreme conspiracy theorist blush, this narrative was embraced by prominent U.S. politicians, including ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and “journalists” from the New York Times to CNN. They all agreed that Putin was a madman on a mission of unchecked aggression against his neighbors with the goal of reconstituting the Russian Empire. Clinton even compared him to Adolf Hitler.

This founding false narrative was then embroidered by a consistent pattern of distorted U.S. reporting as the crisis unfolded. Indeed, for the past eight months, we have seen arguably the most one-sided coverage of a major international crisis in memory, although there were other crazed MSM stampedes, such as Iraq’s non-existent WMD in 2002-03, Iran’s supposed nuclear bomb project for most of the past decade, Libya’s “humanitarian crisis” of 2011, and Syria’s sarin gas attack in 2013.

But the hysteria over Ukraine with U.S. officials and editorialists now trying to rally a NATO military response to Russia’s alleged “invasion” of Ukraine raises the prospect of a nuclear confrontation that could end all life on the planet.

The ‘Big Lie’ of the ‘Big Lie’

This madness reached new heights with a Sept. 1 editorial in the neoconservative Washington Post, which led many of the earlier misguided stampedes and was famously wrong in asserting that Iraq’s concealment of WMD was a “flat fact.” In its new editorial, the Post reprised many of the key elements of the false Ukraine narrative in the Orwellian context of accusing Russia of deceiving its own people.

The “through-the-looking-glass” quality of the Post’s editorial was to tell the “Big Lie” while accusing Putin of telling the “Big Lie.” The editorial began with the original myth about the aggression waged by Putin whose “bitter resentment at the Soviet empire’s collapse metastasized into seething Russian nationalism.

“In prosecuting his widening war in Ukraine, he has also resurrected the tyranny of the Big Lie, using state-controlled media to twist the truth so grotesquely that most Russians are in the dark, or profoundly misinformed, about events in their neighbor to the west.

“In support of those Russian-sponsored militias in eastern Ukraine, now backed by growing ranks of Russian troops and weapons, Moscow has created a fantasy that plays on Russian victimization. By this rendering, the forces backing Ukraine’s government in Kiev are fascists and neo-Nazis, a portrayal that Mr. Putin personally advanced on Friday, when he likened the Ukrainian army’s attempts to regain its own territory to the Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War II, an appeal meant to inflame Russians’ already overheated nationalist emotions.”

The Post continued: “Against the extensive propaganda instruments available to Mr. Putin’s authoritarian regime, the West can promote a fair and factual version of events, but there’s little it can do to make ordinary Russians believe it. Even in a country with relatively unfettered access to the Internet, the monopolistic power of state-controlled media is a potent weapon in the hands of a tyrant.

“Mr. Putin’s Big Lie shows why it is important to support a free press where it still exists and outlets like Radio Free Europe that bring the truth to people who need it.”

Yet the truth is that the U.S. mainstream news media’s distortion of the Ukraine crisis is something that a real totalitarian could only dream about. Virtually absent from major U.S. news outlets across the political spectrum has been any significant effort to tell the other side of the story or to point out the many times when the West’s “fair and factual version of events” has been false or deceptive, starting with the issue of who started this crisis.

Blinded to Neo-Nazis

In another example, the Post and other mainstream U.S. outlets have ridiculed the idea that neo-Nazis played any significant role in the putsch that ousted Yanukovych on Feb. 22 or in the Kiev regime’s brutal offensive against the ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine.

However, occasionally, the inconvenient truth has slipped through. For instance, shortly after the February coup, the BBC described how the neo-Nazis spearheaded the violent seizure of government buildings to drive Yanukovych from power and were then rewarded with four ministries in the regime that was cobbled together in the coup’s aftermath.

When ethnic Russians in the south and east resisted the edicts from the new powers in Kiev, some neo-Nazi militias were incorporated into the National Guard and dispatched to the front lines as storm troopers eager to fight and kill people whom some considered “Untermenschen” or sub-human.

Even the New York Times, which has been among the most egregious violators of journalistic ethics in covering the Ukraine crisis, took note of Kiev’s neo-Nazi militias carrying Nazi banners while leading attacks on eastern cities albeit with this embarrassing reality consigned to the last three paragraphs of a long Times story on a different topic. [See’s “NYT Discovers Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis at War.”]

Later, the conservative London Telegraph wrote a much more detailed story about how the Kiev regime had consciously recruited these dedicated storm troopers, who carried the Wolfsangel symbol favored by Hitler’s SS, to lead street fighting in eastern cities that were first softened up by army artillery. [See’s “Ignoring Ukraine’s Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers.”]

You might think that unleashing Nazi storm troopers on a European population for the first time since World War II would be a big story given how much coverage is given to far less significant eruptions of neo-Nazi sentiment in Europe but this ugly reality in Ukraine disappeared quickly into the U.S. media’s memory hole. It didn’t fit the preferred good guy/bad guy narrative, with the Kiev regime the good guys and Putin the bad guy.

Now, the Washington Post has gone a step further dismissing Putin’s reference to the nasty violence inflicted by Kiev’s neo-Nazi battalions as part of Putin’s “Big Lie.” The Post is telling its readers that any reference to these neo-Nazis is just a “fantasy.”

Even more disturbing, the mainstream U.S. news media and Washington’s entire political class continue to ignore the Kiev government’s killing of thousands of ethnic Russians, including children and other non-combatants. The “responsibility to protect” crowd has suddenly lost its voice. Or, all the deaths are somehow blamed on Putin for supposedly having provoked the Ukraine crisis in the first place.

A Mysterious ‘Invasion’

And now there’s the curious case of Russia’s alleged “invasion” of Ukraine, another alarmist claim trumpeted by the Kiev regime and echoed by NATO hardliners and the MSM.

While I’m told that Russia did provide some light weapons to the rebels early in the struggle so they could defend themselves and their territory and a number of Russian nationalists have crossed the border to join the fight the claims of an overt “invasion” with tanks, artillery and truck convoys have been backed up by scant intelligence.

One former U.S. intelligence official who has examined the evidence said the intelligence to support the claims of a significant Russian invasion amounted to “virtually nothing.” Instead, it appears that the ethnic Russian rebels may have evolved into a more effective fighting force than many in the West thought. They are, after all, fighting on their home turf for their futures.

Concerned about the latest rush to judgment about the “invasion,” the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of former U.S. intelligence officials and analysts, took the unusual step of sending a memo to German Chancellor Angela Merkel warning her of a possible replay of the false claims that led to the Iraq War.

“You need to know,” the group wrote, “that accusations of a major Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the ‘intelligence’ seems to be of the same dubious, politically ‘fixed’ kind used 12 years ago to ‘justify’ the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.”

But these doubts and concerns are not reflected in the Post’s editorial or other MSM accounts of the dangerous Ukraine crisis. Indeed, Americans who rely on these powerful news outlets for their information are as sheltered from reality as anyone living in a totalitarian society.

The late Robert Parry.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

As World warns of WW I-Style Nationalisms, Top 5 Nations Trump Demonizes

French President Emmanuel Macron warned, as Europe prepares to commemorate the end of World War I a century ago on November 11, that the world is entering a new age of destructive nationalism.

Virulent nationalism roiled Europe and killed over 80 million people in the two world wars. That is more than the population of a contemporary European country like France or Germany.

Macron did not say so, but he must have had Trump on his mind. The president has attempted to whip up nationalist and racist anxieties on a scale not seen since the Fascist axis of the 1930s and 1940s.

If British anti-Germans spoke of “the Hun” in the early twentieth century, Trump has offered us a whole new vocabulary of hatred.

In the world according to Trump, patriotism is no longer enough and must be replaced by nationalism (Mussolini’s party was the Nationalist Fascist Party). Charles DeGaulle observed that patriotism is loving your country an nationalism is hating other peoples’ countries.

And here are the top five ‘nations’ Trump hates:

1. Muslim-majority countries. “Islam hates us,” he pronounced. (Except for Muslim countries willing to suck up to the United States, which is most of them). Thus, Trump imposed his Muslim visa ban.

2. Iran: Trump violated the treaty with Iran; and now he is waging economic war on Iran— which is sure to result in new trouble.

3. Trump castigated Mexicans as rapists and criminals, and wants to wall them out.

4. Trump has now extended these insults to Guatemalans and other Central Americans, using them to insult our intelligence by presenting a small group of women, children and noncombatants seeking asylum at a port of entry), as a major threat.

But Trump’s National Security Adviser called up Brazil’s fascist new president, Jair Bolsonaro and praised him to the skies. So it is only the non-fascist Latinos that Trump hates.

5. China, Trump yells, is taking advantage of us. He is pursuing a wideranging trade war with that country that will almost certainly at some point seize up the world economy and plunge it into a deep recession.

The chances of a military encounter with China in the South Pacific can also not be ruled out.

These nationalist conflict promoted by Trump are far more dangerous than most people realize.

Juan Cole @ Informed Comment.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Inverse PC: Ignoring White supremacists and other far-right extremists


White supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed far more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has reported that 71 percent of the extremist-related fatalities in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for just 26 percent. Data compiled by the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database shows that the number of terror-related incidents has more than tripled in the United States since 2013, and the number of those killed has quadrupled. In 2017, there were 65 incidents totaling 95 deaths. In a recent analysis of the data by the news site Quartz, roughly 60 percent of those incidents were driven by racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, antigovernment or other right-wing ideologies. Left-wing ideologies, like radical environmentalism, were responsible for 11 attacks. Muslim extremists committed just seven attacks.

These statistics belie the strident rhetoric around “foreign-born” terrorists that the Trump administration has used to drive its anti-immigration agenda. They also raise questions about the United States’ counterterrorism strategy, which for nearly two decades has been focused almost exclusively on American and foreign-born jihadists, overshadowing right-wing extremism as a legitimate national-security threat. According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent $2.8 trillion — 16 percent of the overall federal budget — on counterterrorism. Terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the United States during that time. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387 in the United States, according to the 2018 Anti-Defamation League report.

“We’re actually seeing all the same phenomena of what was happening with groups like ISIS, same tactics, but no one talks about it because it’s far-right extremism,” says the national-security strategist P. W. Singer, a senior fellow at the New America think tank. During the first year of the Trump administration, Singer and several other analysts met with a group of senior administration officials about building a counterterrorism strategy that encompassed a wider range of threats. “They only wanted to talk about Muslim extremism,” he says. But even before the Trump administration, he says, “we willingly turned the other way on white supremacy because there were real political costs to talking about white supremacy.”

In March 2018, a 20-year-old white evangelical Christian named Mark Anthony Conditt laid a series of homemade I.E.D.s around Austin, Tex., in largely minority communities. The bombs killed two African-Americans and injured at least four others over the course of several weeks, terrorizing the city, yet the local authorities preferred to describe Conditt, who committed suicide, as a “very challenged young man.” Also last spring, another white man, 28-year-old Benjamin Morrow, blew himself up in his apartment in Beaver Dam, Wis., while apparently constructing a bomb. Federal investigators said Morrow’s apartment doubled as a “homemade explosives laboratory.” There was a trove of white-supremacist literature in Morrow’s home, according to the F.B.I. But local cops, citing Morrow’s clean-cut demeanor and standout record as a quality-control manager at a local food-processing plant, made sure to note that just because he had this material didn’t mean he was a white supremacist. “He could have been an individual that was doing research,” the local police chief said.

In this atmosphere of apparent indifference on the part of government officials and law enforcement, a virulent, and violent, far-right movement has grown and metastasized. To combat it, some officials have suggested prosecuting related crimes through expansion of the government’s counterterrorism powers — creating a special “domestic terrorism” statute, for instance, which currently doesn’t exist. But a report released on Oct. 31 by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School argues that the creation of such a statute could easily be abused to target “protesters and political dissidents instead of terrorists,” and that law enforcement already has ample authority to prosecute domestic terrorism: “Congress must require that counterterrorism resource decisions be based on objective evaluations of the physical harm different groups pose to human life, rather than on political considerations that prioritize the safety of some communities over others.”

The report also calls out the Justice Department for its “blind spot” when it comes to domestic terrorism and hate crimes, which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein conceded earlier in the week. During a conference on Oct. 29, Rosenstein said that according to the latest F.B.I. crime report, “88 percent of agencies that provide hate-crimes data to the F.B.I. reported zero hate crimes in 2016.” The Justice Department was reviewing the accuracy of the reports, he noted. “Simply because hate crimes are not reported does not mean they are not happening.”

In 2016, the latest full year of data available from the F.B.I., more than 6,100 hate-crime incidents were reported, 4,270 of them crimes against people (as opposed to, say, defacing property). And yet only 27 federal hate-crime defendants were prosecuted that year. “The F.B.I. knows how many bank robberies there were last year,” says Michael German, an author of the Brennan Center report and a former F.B.I. agent, “but it doesn’t know how many white supremacists attacked people, how many they injured or killed.”

More concerning to German, though, is that law enforcement seems uninterested in policing the violent far right. During the first year after Donald Trump’s election, protests and riots erupted across the country, often involving men with criminal histories who, by definition, were on the law-enforcement radar. During the so-called Battle of Berkeley in March 2017, for instance, a far-right agitator named Kyle Chapman became a hero to the alt-right after he reportedly pummeled an anti-fascist counterprotester with a billy club. Chapman was a 41-year-old who had two previous felony convictions. He proceeded to travel around the country, engaging in violence at other protests, now under the online moniker Based Stickman — a cheerful reference to the Berkeley attacks.

The NYT Magazine.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Trump and the caravan: lying again

Thanks to the president doubling down on his racism lately when it comes to a caravan of Central American immigrants heading toward the border, the Pentagon has had to step in and do damage control. Trump has made some outrageous claims about how he’s sending 15,000 troops to the border to stop this caravan, and the Pentagon just made him look like a complete idiot. Earlier this week, Trump said in an interview:

As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out. We have about 5,800. We’ll go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 military personnel on top of border patrol, ICE, and everybody else at the border. We have to have a wall of people.”

Currently, there are 5,200 military personnel deployed at the border, and no one knows where Trump is pulling this 15,000 number from. The Pentagon has responded after Trump’s irresponsible comment, as the Associated Press reported:

The Pentagon says ‘more than 7,000’ troops were being sent to the southwest border to support the customs and border protection agents. Officials said that number could reach a maximum of about 8,000 under present plans.”

I think we can all agree that 8,000 is nowhere near 15,000 — so this was just another one of Trump’s lies, which was shut down by his own military commanders. This has got to be embarrassing enough for Trump, but there’s more. The Pentagon has debunked previous reports that 14,000 military personnel could be sent to the border:

On Monday, officials announced that about 5,200 were being deployed. The next day, the air force general running the operation said more than the initially announced total were going, and he pointedly rejected a news report that it could reach 14,000, saying that was ‘not consistent with what’s actually being planned.’”

Trump is obviously lying left and right now that he only has a few days to scare voters into voting GOP in the midterm election. Fortunately, everyone — even his own people — keeps proving just how untrustworthy he is.


Thursday, 1 November 2018

How American Policy in Honduras Created the Refugee Crisis

Several years ago we saw mass migration from Honduras during the Obama administration, including almost 70,000 unaccompanied minors showing up at the border. That is now repeating itself, but with the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy making the situation dramatically worse. And much of this, as Joseph Nevins of the North American Congress on Latin America documents, is a result of deliberate US policy to destabilize that country in the name of profit.

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “banana republic” bandied about, but you may not know the history of it. Honduras is the country about which it was invented in the late 1800s. Specifically, it was about the Cuyamel Fruit Company, later called United Fruit Company, and now known as Chiquita Brands International. In the 1890s. US-based fruit companies essentially took control of Honduras, owning all the good land for banana production and disrupting the trade in that country’s other major crop, coffee.

By the early 1900s, more than a million acres were owned for banana production, but the profits all went to the wealthy landowners, not the poor peasants who actually worked the land. Indeed, they were made all the more impoverished by being denied access to most of that country’s agricultural land. There were uprisings now and then, but they were put down by American military interventions, directly in 1907 and 1911, and indirectly through military aid and control throughout the rest of the 20th century. It got particularly bad under Reagan, who used Honduras as a training and staging ground for the Contras seeking to overthrow the government in Nicaragua.

American aid and support for the Honduran oligarchy and the American companies they helped enrich ensured that this country would remain desperately poor with a massive disparity in wealth. The people live in poverty while the ultra-rich control the government and the military. Post-Reagan, there was a moment of optimism as with the election of liberal reformer Manuel Zelaya in 2006, but he was soon put down in a military coup — almost all of the Honduran officer corps was trained by the American military and involved the families of those oligarchs — and that reignited what is now essentially a failing state (for everyone but the rich, that is). Nevins writes:

Organized crime, drug traffickers and the country’s police heavily overlap. Impunity reigns in a country with frequent politically-motivated killings. It is the world’s most dangerous country for environmental activists, according to Global Witness, an international nongovernmental organization.
Although its once sky-high murder rate has declined, the continuing exodus of many youth demonstrates that violent gangs still plague urban neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, post-coup governments have intensified an increasingly unregulated, “free market” form of capitalism that makes life unworkable for many. Government spending on health and education, for example, has declined in Honduras. Meanwhile, the country’s poverty rate has risen markedly. These contribute to the growing pressures that push many people to migrate.

This is what people are fleeing, and it’s little better in neighboring countries in Latin America. They are fleeing the organized crime cartels that Trump is falsely accusing them of belonging to, just like he accuses Syrian refugees of being part of ISIS when it is, at least partly, ISIS that they are trying to escape. The story of American foreign policy in the 20th century was largely the story of how we installed and propped up one corrupt, barbaric dictator after another, ostensibly in the name of stopping communism but really in defense of the profits of American companies. We created the conditions that give rise to the refugee and human rights crisis, then declare it a crisis and crack down on the victims of our own policy. We should be ashamed of that, but I’m not sure most Americans are even capable of such shame.

Fox News Talking Head tells the Truth about the Caravan