Saturday, June 17, 2017

Blockading Qatar, Blockading China's New Petro-Yuan

The Qatar Blockade, the Petro-Yuan, and the Coming War on Iran

by Dan Glazebrook - CounterPunch

June 16, 2017

Trump’s speech to the assembled Gulf leaders in Saudi Arabia on May 21st is worth reading in full. It is deeply disturbing.

Having praised himself for his $110billion arms deal with the Saudis, he goes on to talk about the threat posed by terrorism, and what a wonderful job the US and the Gulfis – that is, the leading state sponsor of the region’s supremacist death squads, and its assembled proxies – are doing in combating it.

He then goes on to claim that at the root of the region’s terrorism lurks – guess who? The power leading the regional pushback against ISIS and Al Qaeda – Iran.

“Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them” he says, 
 “But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment”. 

This is pretty much exactly how Joe Biden – in his own attempt to whitewash US involvement – described Trump’s Saudi hosts three years earlier. But Trump is not talking about IS’s Saudi backers; he is talking about Iran – the same Iran responsible, with its Syrian and Russian allies, for that fact that the IS flag is NOT today flying over Damascus.

It gets worse. Look at the following passage, just after he calls on “all nations of conscience to work together to isolate Iran”:

“Will we be indifferent in the presence of evil? Will we protect our citizens from its violent ideology? Will we let its venom spread through our societies? Will we let it destroy the most holy sites on earth? If we do not confront this deadly terror, we know what the future will bring—more suffering and despair. But if we act—if we leave this magnificent room unified and determined to do what it takes to destroy the terror that threatens the world—then there is no limit to the great future our citizens will have.

The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance. Just imagine what tomorrow could bring. Glorious wonders of science, art, medicine and commerce to inspire humankind. Great cities built on the ruins of shattered towns. New jobs and industries that will lift up millions of people.”

This is the language of genocide. Heroism and genocide have always gone hand-in-hand in the settler-colonial ideology internalised by the likes of Trump, for which ‘building great cities on the ruins of shattered towns’, be they native American, Palestinian, or, it seems, Iranian, has always been the highest accolade. Some have accused Trump of making novice blunders during his first lumbering foray into the Middle Eastern maelstrom. But I think he knows exactly what he’s doing.

He knows very well that the loosely-defined ‘ideology’ he speaks of as ‘spreading venom’ will be much more readily interpreted by his hosts as Shi’ism – the creed to which Iran actually subscribes – than as Wahhabi’ism, the sectarian ideology behind ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Saudi state.

And just to make clear what he is demanding be done to this ill-defined – but, nudge-wink, understood – enemy, he spells it out:

“The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.

It is a choice between two futures — and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.

A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and


Doesn’t this sound horribly like Trump giving the green light to an all-out war of eradication against the region’s Shia – that is, a war very similar to the one actually being waged, in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, by Trump’s government, his hosts, and their proxies?

At the same time, having found it harder than expected to rip up the Iran deal, Trump is instead hoping to render it null and void by simply blackmailing individual nations into not dealing with Iran, ensuring the formal lifting of sanctions is replaced by an informal blockade.

This is where Qatar comes in. Qatar has clearly not been playing ball with the US-approved, Saudi-led ‘isolate Iran’ programme. This is partly because, ever since the current Emir toppled his pro-Saudi father in 1995, the country has made independence from Saudi Arabia a hallmark of its foreign policy. But it is mostly because Qatar and Iran share the world’s largest natural gas field – known in Qatar as North Field and in Iran as South Pars.

In fact, the two countries have had decent relations for some time: in May 2010, for example, in stark contrast to the hardline attitude of his Gulf neighbours, the Qatari Emir Al-Thani joined forces with President Assad of Syria, no less, to support Turkey’s diplomatic proposals over Iran’s nuclear programme. Then, in 2014, in a ‘dry run’ of today’s crisis, the Saudis, UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha following a Qatari proposal to help Iran develop its side of the North Field/ South Pars gas field.

But what’s taking place now is much more serious. And that is largely because of the likely earth-shattering impact of the decisions surely now being considered by the two powers over where their gas will go, how it will get there – and in what currency it will be sold.

In April of this year, a self-imposed 12-year moratorium on the development of Qatar’s share of North Field came to an end, potentially opening up a flood of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) onto the market in the years to come. But where will it go? Qatar had originally been hoping to build an LNG pipeline to the Mediterranean via Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey; indeed, many have speculated that Assad’s blocking of this proposal in favour of an Iran-Iraq-Syria route was a major reason for Qatar’s support of the anti- government insurgency there.

The failure of this insurgency, however, has spelled the death of this proposal, leaving Qatar bound to look East to Asia – already their biggest customers – for their LNG markets.

But most of the existing Eastbound LNG pipeline infrastructure is controlled by Iran. For Qatar, then, cutting its Iran links would be cutting off its nose to spite its face. This is why the Saudis aim to demonstrate that the alternative is having their entire face cut off.

For the US, the stakes couldn’t be higher. In 2012, Iran began to accept yuan for its oil and gas payments, followed by Russia in 2015. If this takes off, this could literally spell the beginning of the end of US global power. The dollar is the world’s leading reserve currency, in the main, only because oil is currently traded in dollars. Countries seeking foreign exchange reserves as insurance against crises within their own currencies tend to look to the dollar precisely because it is effectively ‘convertible’ into oil, the world’s number one commodity.

This global thirst for dollars is what allows the US to print endless amounts of them, virtually for free, which it can then exchange for real goods and services with other countries. This is what is known as ‘seignorage privileges’; that is, the ability to absorb ever-increasing amounts of goods and services from other countries without having to provide anything of equivalent value in return. In turn, it is this privilege which helps to finance the staggering costs of the US military machine, now running at over $600 billion per year.

Yet, this whole system falls apart once other countries stop using the dollar as their prime reserve currency. And they stop doing this once oil stops being traded in dollars. This is one reason why the US were so keen for Saddam Hussein to go after he began trading Iraqi oil in Euros.

And, slowly but surely, this change is already occurring. In 2012, the People’s Bank of China announced it would no longer be increasing its holdings of US dollars, and two years later, Nigeria increased its holdings of yuan from 2% to 7% of its total foreign exchange reserves. Many other countries are moving in the same direction.

At the same time, China has been on a gold-buying spree, setting up its own twice-daily pricing of gold in yuan in 2012 as part of what the chair of the Shanghai Gold Exchange called the “internationalisation of renminbi”, ultimately aiming towards making yuan fully convertible to gold. Once this happens, the choice for oil-producing countries between trading oil for ever-more-worthless paper dollars, or trading it for convertible-to-gold renminbi will be a no-brainer. For Qatar, the pull may already be irresistible.

Hence the urgency to pre-emptively punish Qatar for its likely move towards a joint venture with Iran to supply Asia with LNG priced in yuan. The aim is to demonstrate that, however economically suicidal it may be in the long term to snub Iran and continue trading in the dollar, it will be politically suicidal in the immediate term to do anything else. Just how far Trump and his Arab friends are prepared to take this remains to be seen. But Trump has repeatedly suggested that the whole point of having a military is to use it.

Dan Glazebrook is currently crowdfunding to finance his second book; you can order an advance copy here:
More articles by Dan Glazebrook

 This article originally appeared on RT 

Collar of a Different Color: Trump "Populism" Demolished

Election Con 2016: New Evidence Demolishes the Myth of Trump’s “Blue-Collar” Populism

by Anthony DiMaggio  - CounterPunch

June 16, 2017
Since Trump’s election win, mainstream commentators have repeated the claim that his rise to power reflects the growing disillusionment of the working class. For just a few examples of these claims, see The Atlantic: “The Billionaire Candidate and His Blue-Collar Following,” the New York Times: “What Donald Trump Might Do for Working-Class Families,” and the Washington Post: “Rallying Blue-Collar Workers in Cincinnati, Trump Blames Democrats for Obstructing his Agenda.”

Photo by Marc Nozell | CC BY 2.0 

The claim that Trump is a supporter of blue-collar workers is accepted by much of the progressive-left as well.

As the narrative goes, working class Americans rose up with a vengeance to reject the neoliberal policies of the Democratic Party, in favor of Trump’s promises to “make America Great Again” by returning manufacturing jobs to the U.S. This characterization of Trump voters is at times accompanied by a whitewashing or downplaying of Trump’s right-wing, bigoted, white nationalist policies. After all, if the public is primarily concerned with growing economic insecurity among the masses, then bigoted positions on social issues must play a relatively small role, if any, in motivating Trump voters.

The ‘Trump as a working-class hero’ narrative is to a significant extent a product of wishful thinking among those who are understandably disenchanted with the Democratic Party’s growing elitism, seen in the “New Democratic” politics of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi. It’s not surprising that progressives would conclude that voters responded to Trump’s populist rhetoric, which homed in on working-class Americans who have been harmed by corporate outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. We’ve been told so many times that Trump owes his victory to working-class voters; it’s no wonder that many don’t challenge this claim.

There is some truth to the position that Trump voters were motivated by anger and anxiety over the state of the economy. But a growing body of data now makes it clear that this ‘economic populism from below’ narrative is heavily exaggerated, and that scholars and commentators should be focusing on larger factors driving support for Trump, which include support for racism, xenophobia, white nationalism, right-wing militarism, anti-choice politics, and the elitist class war against the middle class and poor.

Numerous studies, including 2016 primary and general election data, leave little question that the traditional “economic populist” framework is increasingly difficult to defend. I summarized the studies covering the 2016 primary elections in detail in a previous Counterpunch piece, “Donald Trump and the Myth of Economic Populism,” which reviewed numerous polls finding that Trump voters were not more likely to be unemployed, to be lower income, or to hail from geographic regions harmed by outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. Rather, Trump supporters were mainly driven by reactionary positions on social and political issues.

Significant statistical predictors of support for Trump included: disinterest in reducing health care costs nationally, disinterest in dealing with the problems of the poor and needy, disinterest in addressing climate change, concern with protection gun rights, interest in strengthening the U.S. military, concern with fighting terrorism, support for dealing with immigration, and embrace of Islamophobic attitudes framing Muslims as extremist and anti-American.

Since the 2016 Republican primaries, numerous studies of general election polling data reinforce the conclusion that Trump supporters are fixated on social issues, and that these voters do not represent economically disadvantaged demographic groups. Eric Draitser summarized some of this data in his important CounterPunch piece, “Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics.”

Drawing on national polling data analyzed by political scientists, Draitser argued that sexism and racism were much more significant predictors of Trump support going into the 2016 November election, as compared to personal economic dissatisfaction. More recently, other political scientists find comparable results.

Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu published a piece in the Washington Post: “It’s Time to Bust the Myth: Most Trump Voters Were Not Working Class,” which finds that Trump voters in the November election did not generally hail from poor or modest economic backgrounds, and that Trump’s primary voters were not any different from the general public in terms of their level of education. While 70 percent of Republican primary voters did not possess a college degree, this was indistinguishable from the nation as a whole, in which 71 percent don’t have a college education.

In addition to the above studies, the Pew Research Center has just recently made available its late-October 2016 pre-election national poll, probing Americans on their voting preferences, economic backgrounds, and political attitudes. I took a closer look at the raw data, and undertook an in-depth statistical analysis of which demographic and political attitudes were significantly associated with support for Trump going into election day. The Pew survey largely reinforces previous academic findings on why individuals supported Trump, while adding some new wrinkles.

Support for Trump, as seen in previous polls, is largely concentrated among more affluent Americans. Trump voters were significantly more likely to be older, white, Republican conservatives – a group that has been quite privileged historically speaking.

Trump voters were not more likely to be unemployed, compared to non-Trump voters. Income-wise, the single largest group of Trump supporters was comprised of individuals hailing from households earning incomes of more than $100,000 a year – which made up 35 percent of all his voters.

Those earning between $75,000 to $100,000 a year accounted for 19 percent of Trump voters, meaning that 54 percent of the president’s supporters came from households earning over $75,000 a year. Another 20 percent of Trump supporters earned between $50,000 to $75,000 a year, putting them over the national median household income, which has long hovered around $50,000. In sum, approximately three-quarters of Trump voters were from households earning more than the national median income, while just one-quarter earned less than the median.

There is some evidence that economic anxiety was a significant factor in voting for Trump. But most of the attitudes embraced by Trump supporters were of the typical Republican Party variety, indicating support for elitist, pro-corporate, and reactionary social agendas. Political attitudes that were significant predictors of Trump support included the following, as found in Pew’s October 2016 survey:

* Disapproval of Obama’s “Affordable Care Act,” no doubt motivated by conservative attacks on the poor and minorities as “unworthy” recipients of government aid.

* Support for the “originalist” belief that the Supreme Court should “base its rulings on its understanding of what the U.S. Constitution meant as it was originally written.”

* Agreement that it is “fair game” for Republican officials to “insult political opponents,” in line with right-wing media’s longstanding authoritarian and incendiary fearmongering, which frames liberals, leftists, and the Democratic Party as socialist, immoral, soft on terrorism, and un-American.

* Agreement with Hawkish militarist positions, specifically agreement that “the U.S. military campaign against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria” is going poorly, and concern “that the U.S. will not go far enough in stopping the Islamic militants.”

* Support for the belief that “tax rates on household income over $250,000 [a year] should be lowered,” in line with right-wing rhetoric framing tax cuts for the rich as essential to guaranteeing mass prosperity and “job creation.”

* Agreement with the Christian right that abortion should be illegal in “most” or “all cases.”

In the October Pew poll, Trump voters were not more likely than non-Trump voters to describe their own “personal economic situation” as “fair” or “poor.” They were more likely than non-Trump supporters to say that “free trade” agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership are a “bad thing” for the U.S., but as already discussed, this sentiment does not spring from personal experience, since Trump voters are not more likely to live in regions heavily hit by corporate globalization and manufacturing job outsourcing.

Still, CBS-New York Times exit poll data from November 2016 finds that Trump voters were nearly twice as likely as Clinton voters to say that their “family financial situation” is worse today than in the past. This finding, when coupled with previous income statistics, provides a better picture of what we’re really talking about when we speak of “economic anxiety” and Trump voters. These individuals represent an affluent, privileged segment of the country in terms of their income, but one that is relatively less privileged than it was in the past, prior to the 2008 economic collapse.

Trump supporters are clearly angry at the state of the U.S. economy. The CBS-New York Times 2016 exit poll data suggests they are more than four times as likely to claim the state of the U.S. economy is “poor” compared to Clinton supporters. Trump’s supporters are looking for scapegoats to blame for their own downwardly trending economic fortunes. And right-wing politicians and conservative media from Fox News to Rush Limbaugh are more than happy to provide them with targets. Susceptibility to reactionary bigotry was apparent in Pew’s October 2016 survey data. Numerous reactionary political attitudes, related to racism, sexism, and xenophobia, were statistically significant predictors of support for Trump. These include:

* The belief that “undocumented immigrants who are now living in the U.S. should not be allowed to stay in the country legally” and that “there should be a national law enforcement effort to deport” them, despite the lack of evidence that immigrants represent a greater criminal threat to the country than native citizens.

* The sentiment that “there is too much attention paid to race and racial issues in our country these days,” despite countless studies documenting how American political, legal, economic, and media institutions routinely discriminate against people of color.

* The notion that during the election, Clinton was “treated less critically [than Donald Trump] because she is a woman,” which draws on the farcical right-wing delusion that men are the real victims of sexism in America, and that women act from a position of power as an aggressive, sexist, dominating force.

* The feeling that “The U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees from Syria into the country,” which draws on paranoid, unsubstantiated, and bigoted notions that Muslims are a “fifth column” threat to American lives and national security.

There is some truth to the notion that Trump supporters have real economic grievances, as related to growing economic insecurity over the last decade, which has been experienced at nearly all income levels. But they are not more likely to suffer from economic insecurity or from unemployment, and their incomes are among the highest in the U.S. Furthermore, Trump voters – like the Republican Party historically – demonstrate little to no interest in uniting with other social and economic groups who have been treated far worse in the modern era.

The narcissism displayed by Trump’s supporters is hardly surprising, however. They’ve been told for decades by right-wing media pundits and Republican political officials that they’re better than the rest of America – particularly the poor legions and people of color who are depicted as lazy, immoral, and unworthy of taxpayer assistance.

I agree that progressives have their work cut out for them, in that it’s our job to challenge the classist, bigoted views embraced by the Trump-supporting American right. But it is near impossible to address these issues head on when large segments of the public refuse to even recognize that these problems exist. The path toward a democratic, humane future begins with being honest about the challenges we face.

With the wealth of data now available documenting the elitism and bigotry of Trump voters, Americans no longer have an excuse when it comes to embracing willfully ignorant, romantic myths about what’s driving support for this president.  

Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at:
More articles by:Anthony DiMaggio

White Phosphorus Won't Eradicate Terrorism

US White Phosphorus Bombs Won't Eradicate Terrorism In Syria


June 16, 2017

US-backed forces are using tactics that cause a 'staggering' number of civilian deaths, but military action won't defeat ISIS, says Phyllis Bennis, director the New Internationalism Project at IPS

The United Nations has warned of heavy civilian death toll as a warn of intensified US-led airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF, is a group of Kurdish and Arab militia, supported by a US-led coalition.

They began to attack Raqqa a week ago to take it from ISIS militants. The SDF, supported by heavy US coalition airstrikes, have already taken territory to the West, East, and North of Raqqa.

However, Paulo Pinheiro, the Chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that the strikes have led to displacement of 160,000 civilians with untallied numbers at this point in terms of the number of people dead. There is also the possibility that the US-led coalition may have been guilty of war crimes for the use of white phosphorus in the heavy populated city.

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights describes white phosphorus as an incendiary and toxic chemical substance which can burn through skin, penetrating internal organs, and for which there is no antidote. Joining us now to discuss the situation is Phyllis Bennis. Phyllis is the Director of the New Internationalism Project at IPS, and among her many books is, "Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer."

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow and the Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. She is the author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, Before and After: US Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis, Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer and Understanding the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer. Her most recent book is Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer.

US Positions Artillery Against Syria Not ISIS, Russia Charges

Russia Warns U.S. Artillery Now Positioned To Attack Syrian Government Forces

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

June 17, 2017

Russia has warned that the U.S.’ recent deployment of an artillery rocket system will be used to cut off Syrian government forces from their allies in Iraq. The U.S. has attacked government soldiers on several occasions in the past near the base where the system is deployed.

On Thursday, the U.S. military deployed mobile artillery rocket launchers at the Al-Tanf military base in Syria, where the U.S. trains the forces of the loose anti-Assad, anti-Daesh (ISIS) coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

US Marines fire a High Mobility Artillery Rocket 
System (HIMARS) launcher at Camp Pendleton,
California, the system recently sent to Syria.
(Photo: Seth Maggard/USMC)

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rocket launchers had previously been deployed in Jordan near the Jordan-Syria border, where the U.S. had used them to fire at Daesh positions earlier this year.

However, the sudden decision to move the artillery into Syria has raised the concern of Syria’s ally, Russia. Russia’s Defense Ministry responded to the U.S. deployment of HIMARS inside of Syria with anxiety, warning in a statement that the artillery would soon be used against the Syrian Arab Army and pro-government militias active in the region.
The statement asserts that “the range of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) is not enough to support the U.S.-backed units of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting against the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) in Raqqa.”

“At the same time, the U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition has several times attacked the Syrian government forces near the Jordanian border, so it can be assumed that such attacks will continue, but this time involving the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems,” the statement added.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also condemned the HIMARS deployment on Friday, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noting that, according to Russian military data, no Daesh militants are active in the region where the HIMARS has been deployed. Lavrov speculated that the real motive behind the HIMARS deployment at Al-Tanf may be to cut off Syrian troops from allies in nearby Iraq.

Russia’s concerns are hardly unfounded, as the U.S. military, particularly at Al-Tanf, has opened fire on and killed pro-government forces on multiple occasions in recent months. The U.S. has claimed on several occasions that the area surrounding the Al-Tanf base is a “deconfliction zone,” similar to those created by an agreement made between Russia, Iran, and Turkey with the support of the Syrian government. However, the U.S. unilaterally created the deconfliction zone at Al-Tanf without the approval of the Syrian government – it is, therefore, not recognized by Damascus or Moscow.

Despite this caveat, the U.S. has repeatedly used the zone’s presence to justify firing on pro-government forces within Syria. Analysts have speculated that the U.S.’ use of pre-emptive force in these cases suggest that the U.S. is not so much defending its troops as pursuing broader geopolitical goals within Syria.

Indeed, the U.S. has made it clear that the operation to remove Daesh from Raqqa, of which the Al-Tanf base is a part, is intended to accomplish the U.S.’ long-standing plan to partition Syria.

The U.S.-backed SDF announced in April their plans to give control of a post-Daesh Raqqa to a “civilian council” instead of the Syrian government whereby the council would be supported by more than 3,000 U.S. ground troops. General Joseph Votel of U.S. Central Command has stated that these U.S. forces would stay in Raqqa as long as it was necessary to help “America’s allies” ensure regional stability and establish “Syrian-led peacekeeping efforts.” Essentially, the SDF – with U.S. support – will establish an independent state within Syria following Daesh’s defeat in Raqqa.

As MintPress previously reported, the U.S. plan to partition Syria is not a new idea and was touted on several occasions by former Secretary of State John Kerry, along with journalists and prominent U.S. academics who argued that partitioning was the “necessary” solution to the Syrian conflict.

Now, with the invasion of Raqqa well under way, the U.S. military is positioning itself to achieve its long-standing geopolitical goal of partitioning and regime change, ensuring that peace in Syria will remain elusive even after the defeat of Daesh.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress contributor who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, 21st Century Wire, and True Activist among others - she currently resides in Southern Chile.
More articles by Whitney Webb

After Grenfell: "Regeneration", Corruption, and a Raw "New Deal" for Communities

Grenfell Analysis: Disaster Result of ‘Regeneration’ Corruption & UK Govt ‘New Deal for Communities’

by Patrick Henningsen - 21st Century Wire 

June 17, 2017

The public-private corruption is both systematic and far-reaching. Reviewing evidence, a number of disturbing items emerge, including poor practice in installation of flammable cosmetic panels on exterior of Grenfell Tower. Looking further, it’s also clear an elite bureaucracy presides over the government’s cynical, profit-driven “regeneration” programs – more specifically the “New Deal for Communities,” backed by shadowy political charity Common Purpose – pushed by both New Labour and Tory governments since the late 1990’s.
Grenfell Tower: how did it happen?
Who is responsible?

This independent news program was broadcast the day after the Grenfell Tower disaster, as UK Column co-anchors Brian Gerrish and Mike Robinson, joined by 21WIRE’s Patrick Henningsen and David Scott delivering a full breakdown and analysis of the tragic events in London.

MORE GRENFELL TOWER NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Grenfell Files


Friday, June 16, 2017

Training Saudi's for a More Sensitive Destructive Capability in Yemen

Feed the Hungry, Treat the Sick: A Crucial Training

by Kathy Kelly - CounterPunch

June 16, 2017

On June 15, 2017, the New York Times reported that the government of Saudi Arabia aims to ease the concerns of some U.S. legislators over U.S. weapon sales to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis plan to engage in “a $750 million multiyear training program through the American military to help prevent the accidental killing of civilians in the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen.”

Since entering the war in Yemen, in March of 2015, the Saudi coalition’s airstrikes, with U.S. assistance, have destroyed bridges, roads, factories, farms, food trucks, animals, water infrastructure, and agricultural banks across the north, while imposing a blockade on the territory. For a country heavily dependent on foreign food aid, that means starving the people. At least seven million people suffer now from severe acute malnourishment.

U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition has included providing weapons, sharing intelligence, targeting assistance, and aerial jet refueling. “If they stop the refueling, that would stop the bombing campaign literally tomorrow,” says Iona Craig, who frequently reports from Yemen, “because logistically the coalition would not be able to send their fighter jets in to carry out sorties without that help.”

The U.S. has also provided “cover” for Saudi violations of international law. On October 27th, 2015, Saudi Arabia bombed a Yemeni hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders. The airstrike went on for two hours, reducing the hospital to rubble.

Ban Ki Moon, then Secretary General of the UN, admonished the Saudi government for attacking a medical facility. The Saudis responded that the U.S. had similarly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital, in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province, which indeed the U.S. had, earlier that same month, on October 3, 2015. The U.S. airstrikes continued, in 15 minute intervals, for an hour, killing 42 people and likewise reducing the Doctors Without Borders hospital to rubble and ash.

How would the U.S. military train the Saudis to prevent the accidental killing of civilians? Would they teach Saudi pilots the military parlance used when U.S. drones hit an intended target: the pools of blood that sensors detect, in place of what was once a human body, are called “bugsplat”? 

If someone attempts to run from the site of the attack, that person is called a “squirter.”

When the U.S. attacked the Yemeni village of Al Ghayyal, on January 29th, 2017, one Navy Seal, Chief Petty Officer Ryan Owen, was tragically killed. That same night, 10 Yemeni children under 13 years of age and six Yemeni women, including Fatim Saleh Mohsen, a 30 year-old mother, were killed. U.S.-fired projectile missiles ripped apart Saleh’s home in the middle of the night. Terrified, she scooped up her infant and grabbed the hand of her son who was a toddler, deciding to run out of the house into the darkness.

Was she considered a squirter?

A U.S. missile killed her almost as soon as she fled. Will the U.S. train the Saudis to engage in U.S. exceptionalism, discounting the lives of alien others, giving priority, always, to so-called national security for the nation with the most weapons?

Over the past seven years, I’ve noted a steady increase in U.S. surveillance of Afghanistan. Drones, tethered blimps, and complex aerial spying systems cost billions of dollars, apparently so that analysts can “better understand patterns of life in Afghanistan.” I think this is a euphemism. The U.S. military wants to better understand patterns of movement for its “High Value Targets” in order to assassinate them.

But my young friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers, (APV), have shown me a life-giving kind of “surveillance.” They conduct surveys, reaching out to the neediest families in Kabul, trying to establish which families are most likely to be hungry because they have no means to acquire rice and cooking oil.

The APV then work out ways to employ widows to sew heavy blankets, or compensate families that agree to send their child laborers to school for half a day.

I told my young friends in Kabul about the dire straits Yemeni youngsters face. Now, along with conflict driven starvation, the nightmarish spread of cholera afflicts them.

Save the Children has warned that the rate of cholera infection in Yemen has tripled over the past 14 days, with an average of 105 children contracting the disease every hour – or one every 35 seconds.

“It’s too much for us to learn these statistics,” my young friends gently responded upon learning about the staggering numbers of Yemeni people who could die from starvation or disease. “Please,” they asked, “can you find someone we could get to know, person to person, through a Skype conversation?”

Two friends in Yemen said that even in the major cities, Yemenis are isolated in terms of international communication. After the APV learned that the conversation they envisioned might not be possible, a few days passed before I heard from them. Then a note arrived, saying that at the end of Ramadan, the month during which they’ve been fasting, they typically take up a collection to help share resources.

They asked me to entrust their collection, meager though it might be, to two Yemeni human rights advocates in New York who are more or less marooned there. This Yemeni couple wonders when commercial flights to Sana’a, Yemen’s largest city, might resume. The APVs, who understand all too well what it means to face an uncertain, precarious future, want to alleviate hunger in Yemen.

They set an example of what could be done — what should be done– rather than make hideous preparations to target, maim, torture, starve and kill other people. We should, individually and collectively, do all that we can to prohibit U.S. supported Saudi-led coalition onslaughts against Yemeni civilians, encourage a silencing of all the guns, insist on lifting the blockade, and staunchly uphold humanitarian concerns.
KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at:
More articles by:Kathy Kelly

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Eating Our Future: Fate of the Children

Where Have All the Children Gone? The Age of Grief

by Karen J. Greenberg - TomDispatch

June 15, 2017

This is a war against normal life.” So said CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward, describing the situation at this moment in Syria, as well as in other parts of the Middle East. It was one of those remarks that should wake you up to the fact that the regions the United States has, since September 2001, played such a role in destabilizing are indeed in crisis, and that this process isn’t just taking place at the level of failing states and bombed-out cities, but in the most personal way imaginable. It’s devastating for countless individuals -- mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers -- and above all for children.

Ward’s words caught a reality that grows harsher by the week, and not just in Syria, but in parts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, among other places in the Greater Middle East and Africa.

Death and destruction stalk whole populations in Syria and other crumbling countries and failed or failing states across the region.

In one of those statistics that should stagger the imagination, devastated Syria alone accounts for more than five million of the estimated 21 million refugees worldwide. And sadly, these numbers do not reflect an even harsher reality: you only become a “refugee” by crossing a border.

Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, A Planet's Future Threatened by the Fate of Its Children

In her first interview since President Obama commuted her 35-year sentence and she was released from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Chelsea Manning explained to Nightline co-anchor Juju Chang why she leaked documents about America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We're getting all this information from all these different sources and it's just death, destruction, mayhem,” she said, describing the period when, still Bradley Manning, she was an intelligence analyst at a U.S. military forward operating base in Iraq. “We're filtering it all through facts, statistics, reports, dates, times, locations, and eventually, you just stop. I stopped seeing just statistics and information, and I started seeing people.”

That crucial transformation led Manning to release to WikiLeaks, among many other documents, a now-infamous 2007 video. It offered a graphic view of how the crew of an American Apache helicopter slaughtered civilians (including two Iraqi Reuters correspondents) on the streets of Baghdad and then riddled a “good Samaritan” van that tried to help those gunned down, killing its driver and wounding his two young children in the backseat -- all this to a soundtrack of brutal, sardonic comments. As Manning explained at her 2013 court-martial, speaking of such videos as “war porn,” 

“The most alarming aspect of the video to me... was the seem[ing]ly delightful bloodlust [the crewmen] appeared to have... [They] seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote dead bastards unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers... While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew's lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene... Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van and despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle unquote.”

Manning served seven years in a military prison for having grasped in a deeply personal and powerful way that, as she told the military judge at her trial, “not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.” As TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School and author most recently of Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, points out, this may, in fact, be the hardest thing for Americans thousands of miles from their country’s war zones to grasp. And yet, as she makes clear, not to grasp what’s been happening to the inhabitants, especially the children, of the Greater Middle East, where the U.S. has fought its disastrous war on terror for the last 15 years, means consigning our world to far worse in the future. After all, what else is likely to come from a region now in chaos, with failed states multiplying, a number of its great cities in rubble, its territories filling with ever more extreme jihadists, ethnic conflict on the rise, and staggering numbers of its inhabitants uprooted and brutalized?

I’m reminded of the last line of the short story “A Madman’s Diary” published in 1918 by the great Chinese writer Lu Hsun. In it, he imagines a man plunged into insanity and so freed to see, as no one else around him can, that his country is quite literally being consumed by cannibalism. (His was a vision of a “feudal” Chinese world, perched at the edge of modernity, that continued to eat itself alive.) The unforgettable final lines of his story are: “Perhaps there are still children who haven’t eaten men. Save the children...”

In significant parts of our world, in Lu Hsun’s terms, even the children are now being eaten and the Chelsea Mannings seem sadly few in number. Tom 

Where Have All the Children Gone? The Age of Grief

by Karen J. Greenberg

According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in 2015 there were another 44 million people uprooted from their homes who were, in essence, exiles in their own lands. Add those numbers together and you have one out of every 113 people on the planet -- and those figures, the worst since World War II, may only be growing.

Rawya Rageh, a senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International, added troubling details to Ward’s storyline, among them that deteriorating conditions in war-torn Syria have made it nearly “impossible to find bread, baby formula, or diapers... leaving survivors at a loss for words” (and just about everything else). 
Meanwhile, across a vast region, families who survive as families continue to face the daily threat of death, hunger, and loss. They often are forced to live in makeshift refugee camps in what amounts to a perpetual state of grief and fear, while the threat of rape, death by drone or suicide bomber, or by other forms of warfare and terror is for many just a normal part of existence, and parental despair is the definition of everyday life.

Resignation Syndrome

When normal life disintegrates in this way, the most devastating impact falls on the children. The death toll among children in Syria alone reached at least 700 in 2016. For those who survive there and elsewhere, the prospect of homelessness and statelessness looms large. Approximately half of the refugee population consists of young people under the age of 18. For them and for the internally displaced, food is often scarce, especially in a country like Yemen, in the midst of a Saudi-led, American-backed war in which civilians are commonly the targets of airstrikes, cholera is spreading, and a widespread famine is reportedly imminent.

In a Yemeni scenario in which 17 million people now are facing "severe food insecurity," nearly two million children are already acutely malnourished. That number, like so many others emerging from the disaster that is the twenty-first-century Middle East, is overwhelming, but we shouldn’t let it numb us to the simple fact that each and every one of those two million young people is a child like any other child, except that he or she is being deprived of the chance to grow up undamaged.

And for those who do escape, who actually make it to safer countries beyond the immediate war zone, life still remains fragile at best with little expectation of a sustainable future. More than half of the six million school-age children who are refugees, reports the UNHCR, have no schools to attend. Primary schools are scarce for them and only 1% of refugee youth attend college (compared to a global average of 34%). Startling numbers of such refugees are engaged in child labor under terrible working conditions. 
Worse yet, a significant number of child refugees are traveling alone. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 
“at least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in 2015-2016... easy prey for traffickers and others who abuse and exploit them.”

Such children, mired in poverty and dislocation, are aptly described as growing up in a culture of deprivation and grief. At least since the creation of UNICEF in 1946, an agency initially focused on the needs of the young in the devastated areas of post-World War II Europe, children at risk have posed a challenge to the world. In recent years, however, the traumas experienced by such young people have been rising to levels not seen since that long-gone era.

A heartbreaking story by Rachel Aviv in the New Yorker catches the extremity of both the plight faced by child refugees and possible reactions to it. She reports on a group of them in Sweden, largely from “former Soviet and Yugoslav states,” whose families had been denied asylum and were facing deportation. A number of them suffered from a modern version of a syndrome once known as “voodoo death,” in which a child falls into a coma-like trance of severe apathy. Doctors have termed this state “resignation syndrome, an illness that is said to exist only in Sweden, and only among refugees.” Fearing ouster and threatened with being deprived of the ties they had already formed in that country, they simply turned off, physically as well as emotionally.

While this is certainly not the first time grief has engulfed parts of the world, children have felt the brunt of its woes. By its nature, warfare breeds destruction, dislocation, and grief. But America's never-ending war on terror, its “longest war,” has contributed to the instances of trauma suffered globally among children and continues to undermine their chances for recovery.

As psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in grief have found, it takes time as well as help to absorb and deal with such trauma and the grief for lives lost and worlds destroyed that follows in its wake. Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who famously identified the five steps involved in reacting to grief, has underscored the time it takes to recover from such traumatic experiences. Unfortunately, for refugee children and those uprooted in their own lands, there is usually no time for such a recovery, no safe space in which to experience those five steps. Instead, year after year, the trauma, like the wars, simply persists and intensifies.

One thing seems guaranteed: children who suffer long-term trauma are likely to develop physiological and psychological symptoms that persist into adulthood, rendering it hard for them to parent in a healthy and supportive way. And in this fashion, the wounds of the wars of the present will be handed on to the future. In the technical language of the experts, “Adverse childhood experiences increase the chance of social risk factors, mental health issues, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, and adult adoption of risky adult behaviors. All of these can affect parenting in a negative way,” and so perpetuate a cycle of dysfunction and trouble.

The Living Casualties of This New Age

There are many ways to think about this twinning of trauma and childhood, which is becoming such a signal part of our age. After the era of the concentration camps in Nazi Europe, psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, who had himself spent almost a year in one, studied the effects of trauma on those who survived exposure to extreme deprivation and the constant threat of death. Adults, he concluded, face the possibility of schizophrenia and the destruction of their personality structures, but children, he wrote, faced worse: the destruction of the self before the ego even came into being. Having been exposed to “extreme situations,” they ended up feeling overwhelmed, powerless, and “deprived of hope.” Many of them had also been forced to grow up without parents who might have helped them through the trauma. Worse yet, some of those he studied had actually seen their parents -- or siblings -- killed.

What he learned remains, unfortunately, applicable to children in our moment. Isn’t it time to begin paying more attention to the cost of losing so many children to the forces of deprivation, soul-crushing devastation, and the culture of death at both a global and the most personal of levels? Isn’t it time for the rest of us to begin to imagine just what millions of damaged children will mean both for our world and for the world they will inherit as adults? Some of them, of course, will rise above the damage done to them in their youth, but many will not and so will lead lives of loneliness, confusion, and pain, and will potentially pose a danger both to themselves and to others.

As Bettelheim’s work, which almost anticipated Sweden’s “resignation syndrome,” suggests, the early years of the twenty-first century are hardly the first age of grief, nor will they likely be the last. They are, however, ours to deal with and their ravages are already evident not just in the Middle East, but in the rest of the world, too. In Europe and the United States, terrorist attacks tied ideologically to the war on (and of) terror and targeted against civilians, continue to undermine the sense of security to which the citizens of such countries were until recently accustomed. Children are not only part of this cycle of death and destruction, but in a recent instance -- the suicide bombing in Manchester, England -- were its target, as they also have been elsewhere, as in the abduction of hundreds of young girls by Boko Haram in Chibok, Nigeria, in 2014. Meanwhile, teenage boys are being targeted as recruits for ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Strikingly, the United States has shown remarkably little concern for the children of the war-torn and violence-ridden areas of the Greater Middle East. Those young people could be thought of as the worst of the collateral damage from the years of invasions, occupations, raids, bombing runs, and drone strikes, including the children or youthful relatives of targeted, designated American enemies like Anwar al-Awlaki.

This lack of concern is strikingly reflected in the anti-refugee policies of the Trump era. Refugee children refused admission to the U.S. and other advanced countries and, forced to live in a state of limbo, are being harmed. Such policies and “bans” are exactly the opposite of what’s needed to heal the world and move forward. Recently, as if to make just that point, an old photograph of a child has been appearing on Twitter over the caption “Denied refuge and murdered in Auschwitz: the human cost of refugee bans.”

As a signal of what to expect from the U.S. in the age of Trump, consider his administration’s proposed budget, which calls for a cut of more than $130 million in funding for UNICEF, the signature agency providing relief and services to children in need globally.

The U.S. and its allies may one day defeat ISIS and other terror groups, but if what’s left in their wake is only bombed-out, unreconstructed landscapes and millions of uprooted children, what kind of victory will that be? What kind of future will that ensure?

There will be no “winning,” not truly, if the crisis of grief, the crisis of the children who are the living casualties of this new age, is not addressed sooner rather than later. For every dollar that goes toward a weapon or the immediate struggle against terror outfits, shouldn’t another go to the support of those children, to the struggle to stabilize their lives, to provide them with homes, education, and care of the sort that they so desperately need? For every short-term prediction about the possible harm refugees could bring to a country, shouldn’t there be some consideration of what the children who are taken care of will want to give their new homelands in return? Shouldn’t some thought be given to the world that the rejected or deported young, if left in distress, will someday create?

In Sweden, where the problems of traumatized refugee children have now been studied for more than a decade, the recommendation of psychiatrists and other experts to that country’s policymakers was simple enough: “A permanent residency permit is considered by far the most effective ‘treatment.’”

The loss of childhood, the crippling effects of trauma, the narrative of grief, and the cruel removal of any sense of hope or of a secure future have been seeping into global discourse about children for many years now. Isn’t it time to begin to see their global crisis for what it is: one of the major threats to a stable future for the planet?

Karen J. Greenberg, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School. Her latest book is Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, out in paperback this May. She is also author of The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days. Rose Sheela and CNS interns Anastasia Bez, Rohini Kurup, and Andrew Reisman contributed research for this article.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Karen J. Greenberg

Red Herrings: How Russia Scare May Save Trump

Red Alert: Russian Focus Might Save Trump’s Hide

by Chris Floyd - CounterPunch

June 15, 2017

The “historic” appearances of James Comey Chameleon and Jefferson Davis Andersonville Sessions before a Senate committee have come and gone, leaving us… pretty much where we were before. Trump was made to look stupid and thuggish (not exactly front-page news); his GOP apologists and enablers employed even more ludicrous justifications for said stupidity and thuggery (“Hey, the kid is still green, he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong — not that he did do anything wrong, mind you.”); media outlets reaped tons of ad revenue; twittery was rampant on every side.
Photo Karl-Ludwig Poggemann | CC BY 2.0 

We all had a jolly good time.

But as for the ostensible object of the exercise — learning more about possible Russian interference in the electoral process, and any part Trump’s gang might have had in colluding with this and/or covering it up — there was not a whole lotta shaking going on.

That’s to be expected. For I don’t believe we are ever going to see confirmable proof of direct collusion between the Trump gang and the Kremlin to skew the 2016 election. I don’t doubt there is a myriad of ties between Trump and nefarious Russian characters, all of whom will of necessity have some connection to Putin’s authoritarian regime. And there may well be underhanded Trump gang ties of corruption to the state itself. But I don’t think a “smoking gun” of direct collusion with Trump’s inner circle in vote tampering exists. If it did, it would be out by now. It’s obvious the intelligence services and FBI were all over the Trump campaign, looking into Russian ties from many angles.

I’m not saying the Russians didn’t try to tamper with the vote. (Although, as a patriotic American, I doubt they can tamper as well as we can.) I’m not saying it’s not important or not worth looking into. I’m just saying that if you put most of your focus and resources and political capital on the bet that you will find some smoking gun of direct collusion between Trump and his circle with the Russian state — evidence so direct and overwhelming that even the GOP extremists in Congress can’t overlook it — then you are going to be disappointed. You will not bring down Trump, who, despite mountains of dirt thrown on him, will still walk away and claim vindication.

Meanwhile, away from the “dramatic hearings” and the all-day permanent Red scare of the “Resistance,” the Trump White House and the Congressional extremists are quietly, methodically, relentlessly transforming the United States into a hideous oligarch-owned, burned-out, broken-down, looted-out, chaos-ridden, far-right dystopia. Right now, the Senate Republicans are trying to push through, in secret, a “health-care” bill that is scarcely less draconian than the universally hated House version, and like that bill, consists of two main parts: a gargantuan tax cut for the very rich and taking away healthcare coverage for millions upon millions of ordinary citizens, including the most vulnerable people in the nation.

And what did we hear Monday from Democratic staffers? That the Senate Democrats are NOT going to wage a fight to the death to prevent this monstrosity from being inflicted on the people; they’re not “going nuclear,” using every possible tactic and procedural rule to derail the Trumpcare bill, or at least stall it long enough to raise a public outcry against it. And why not? Why, because the Republicans have promised that no sanctions will be removed on Russia without the Democrats getting a chance to vote on it in the Senate. This is the kind of misplaced priority I’m talking about.

I won’t even get into the fact that progressives and liberals now venerate the intelligence services they used to rightly condemn for decades of lies and deceit and misinformation and covert murder and, yes, manipulation of our electoral process (not to mention those of other nations.) And let’s put aside how every “anonymous leak” from an “intelligence source” is now treated as gospel — even though it comes from the same “intelligence sources” that anonymously leaked all that “credible” evidence of Saddam’s WMD way back in caveman times. And told us that Gadafy was about to unleash genocide on his people and was sending in rape squads jacked up on Viagra, etc., only to sheepishly admit later these claims had been all false … after Gadafy had been sodomized and murdered in the street by NATO-backed Islamic extremists, even as Hillary Clinton laughed out loud and declared, “We came, we saw, he DIED!”

Let’s put aside the fact that former head of the FBI — who has spent years waging war on Black Lives Matter and concocting fake terrorist plots to entrap mentally ill loners in order to garner good PR for himself — is now a liberal hero, even a “sex symbol,” because he was fired by a lunatic fascist that no one with a shred of honor should have been working for in the first place. Let’s put aside that former CIA honcho James Clapper — who has lied under oath to Congress about the CIA’s Putin-style hacking of the US Senate to stop release of reports on, er, CIA torture, who lied repeatedly about Saddam’s non-existent WMD when he was a key player under George W. Bush, and who is now repeatedly saying that Russians have some kind of genetic defect that makes them inherent, unredeemable scheming lowlifes — has also become a much-lauded liberal hero. Let’s put aside the abandonment of principle and common sense the “Resistance” has shown toward the bankrupt morality and demonstrable mendacity of these men and their institutions. And how anyone who expresses the same skepticism toward these “organs” that they have been expressing for decades — no matter who is in power — is now regarded as a Putin apologist, a Kremlin stooge or, more and more often, an outright, active traitor.

Let’s put aside all this for now, disheartening as it is, and focus on this: if the intent is to bring down Trump, then there is ample material just lying there for the taking — evidence of blatant criminality and corruption that could be taken up right now, keeping Trump and his whole sick crew tied up in prosecutions, investigations, special committees and independent prosecutors out the wazoo. The man had known Mafia figures with him at his New Year’s celebration in Mar-a-Lago just months ago, for God’s sake. You don’t have to pry piss-tapes from the Kremlin to bring down a mook like Trump.

Of course, part of the problem is that a genuinely wide-ranging and thorough investigation of Trump’s criminal corruption would doubtless expose the deep rot at the heart of our system, the incredibly complex entwining of the underworld and the “upper world”: the dirty deals, the tax dodges, the sweetheart contracts, the cut-outs to maintain “deniability,” the bribes, the “gifts,” the special arrangements, the corporate espionage, the interpenetration of state and corporate power at every level, even in warfare and diplomacy — in short, all of the “corrupted currents” that lay behind the gilded facade maintained by our bipartisan elites and their servitors in the political-media class. If you start to pull too hard on the stinking threads of Trump’s criminal entanglements, who knows what else might come undone, who else might be exposed?

We saw during the last campaign this reluctance to really go after Trump for the string of dodgy deals and frauds he’s left across a decades-long career. Every now and then there would be a quick jab, but even these would usually be obscured by Trump’s artful use of blathering idiocy on Twitter. Was he defrauding veterans and cancer patients with his patently fraudulent charities? “Look there! Trump just said McCain was a loser for being captured in Vietnam!” Didn’t Trump commit criminal fraud in scamming people out of millions with his fake Trump University? “Look there! Trump’s tweeting racist attacks on the judge!” And so off we’d go, fixing on the galling spectacle of Trump’s character, while the focus on actual crime and corruption would recede. This reluctance was evident in both the GOP primary and in the general election. I kept waiting for the gloves to come off on Trump’s dirty deals, but they never really did. The focus remained on his sleazy character, not his legal dangers; and Trump had long known that the spectacular sleaziness of his character was the mainspring of his popularity, both as a celebrity and candidate. (And yes, this sleaziness and corruption was well-known even when Bill and Hillary were wrapping their arms around Donald at his wedding years before.)

Be that as it may, there is still probably more than enough material on the surface for our elites to bring Trump down without going too deep into the corrupted currents where their own murk might be stirred up. Heck, there might even be enough honest players in the political circus to lead a multi-front attack on Trump’s corruption without worrying about themselves being exposed. If you really want to bring Trump down — and in that way, cripple or at least hamper the ravages of the extremists who are using him as their tool — then it seems to me this more straightforward approach would be far more likely to succeed than waiting for some spy to come in from the cold and put incontrovertible proof of direct collusion in our hands.

But I don’t see any sign of this happening anytime soon, if ever. The focus will remain on the Russians, who despite being genetically inferior lowbrow swindlers are nevertheless capable of orchestrating practically every event in the world, including, I guess, the rise of Rupert Murdoch and the rightwing media machine, the politicised fundamentalist churches and the thousands of sinister ideological outfits bankrolled by weird billionaires, all of which have spawned an entire alternative universe in which millions of people now live, feeding on lies and smears and hatemongering that fuels their prejudices, their fears, their resentments and their anger, and corrodes their sense of commonality and community with their fellow citizens. I would venture to say that the deliberate cultivation of this vicious and violent alternative reality — along with the creation of the Electoral College in the 18th century, and the vote suppression laws passed by billionaire-funded extremists in state legislatures that disenfranchised millions of anti-Trump voters — had more to do with Trump’s victory than any phishing expeditions or email leaking by the Russians.

Again, I’m not saying that the latter didn’t happen; it may well be that the people who lied to our faces about yellow cake and aluminium tubes and vials of sarin and CIA torture, the people who wage drone wars on farmers and wedding parties, the people who persecute the mentally ill for their own aggrandizement while stirring up needless fear and hatred are now being honourable and truthful in every single thing they tell us. I genuinely hope so. If they produced that smoking gun from the Kremlin tomorrow and brought Trump down, I’d be over the moon. But I don’t think that is going to happen. And I fear we will find that a great deal of ruin has been done — and many more promising avenues of attack have been ignored, perhaps for good — while we chase ghosts in the shadowlands of espionage.

But hey, don’t listen to me. I not only write for a publication which was put on a McCarthyite list of “subversives” trumpeted in the Washington Post (before it had to backpedal), I actually even lived in Russia once, which as we know — in an age where Louise Mensch is regarded as a credible source by the “Resistance” and all things Russian are tainted — means I am obviously a Kremlin agent or a Putin fanboy trying to save Comrade Trump from the forces of righteousness. What’s more, I know people who still live in Russia, some of whom are even — gasp! — genetically Russian. (Please don’t tell liberal hero James Clapper!) So of course, all of these people must be Kremlin tools as well — even though they are putting their lives and livelihoods on the line every day fighting Putin’s tyranny, with a courage I doubt we’ll see from many of our “Resisters” when Trump finishes with Muslims, immigrants, African-Americans, the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the insulted and injured of every stripe and finally come for the “real” people who read the New York Times and watch Rachel Maddow. For these days it’s simply impossible to be associated with Russia in any way, or to question the credibility of our security organs in the slightest, or to suggest possibly better alternatives for removing Trump’s copious rump from the Oval Office, without being shunned by polite progressive society.

So take what I say with a pinch of bread and salt. (The traditional Russian offering of welcome — oh damn, I gave myself away again!) But if the focus stays largely on Russia, don’t be surprised to see Trump sitting on the White House toilet playing with his tweeter four years from now while Steven Bannon and Richard Spencer plan his re-election campaign.  

Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at
More articles by Chris Floyd

Crack'd Forecasts: A "Notta Mea Culpa" from British Commentariat Over Dismal Corbyn Coverage

The Breaking of the Corporate Media Monopoly

by Media Lens

June 15, 2017
Last week, Jeremy Corbyn humbled the entire political and corporate media commentariat. With a little help from Britain's student population. And with a little help from thousands of media activists.

Without doubt this was one of the most astonishing results in UK political history.

Dismissed by all corporate political pundits, including the clutch of withered fig leaves at the Guardian, reviled by scores of his own Blairite MPs (see here), Corbyn 'increased Labour's share of the vote by more than any other of the party's election leaders since 1945' with 'the biggest swing since... shortly after the Second World War'. He won a larger share of the vote than Tony Blair in 2005.

Corbyn achieved this without resorting to angry lefty ranting. His focus was on kindness, compassion, sharing, inclusivity and forgiveness. This approach held up a crystal-clear mirror to the ugly, self-interested cynicism of the Tory party, and transformed the endless brickbats into flowers of praise.

On Twitter, John Prescott disclosed that when Rupert Murdoch saw the exit poll 'he stormed out of the room'.

As ever, while the generals made good their escape, front-line troops were less fortunate. Outfought by Team Corbyn, out-thought by social media activists, outnumbered in the polls, many commentators had no option but to fall on their microphones and keyboards. LBC radio presenter Iain Dale led the way:

'Let me be the first to say, I got it wrong, wholly wrong. I should have listened more to my callers who have been phoning into my show day after day, week after week.'

The Guardian's Gaby Hinsliff, who had written in January, 'This isn't going to be yet another critique of Corbyn, by the way, because there is no point. The evidence is there for anyone with eyes', tweeted:

'This is why I trust @iaindale's judgement; he admits when it was way off. (As mine was. As god knows how many of ours was)'

Hinsliff promised:

'Like everyone else who didn't foresee the result, I'll be asking myself hard questions & trying to work out what changed...'

Annoying as ever, we asked:

'But will you be asking yourself about the structural forces, within and outside Guardian and corporate media generally, shaping performance?'


'Is a corporate journalist free to analyse the influence of owners, profit-orientation, ad-dependence, state-subsidised news? Taboo subjects.'

Presumably engrossed in introspection, Hinsliff did not reply.

Right-winger John Rentoul, who insisted four weeks ago in the Independent that, 'we are moving towards the end of the Corbynite experiment', appeared to be writing lines in detention:

'I was wrong about Jeremy Corbyn - The Labour leader did much better in the election than I expected. I need to understand and learn from my mistakes'

Channel 4 News presenter and Telegraph blogger, Cathy Newman tweeted:

'Ok let's be honest, until the last few weeks many of us under-estimated @jeremycorbyn'

Translating from the 'newspeak': many corporate journalists waged a relentless campaign over two years to persuade the public to 'underestimate' Corbyn, but were wrong about the public's ability to see through the propaganda.

Piers Morgan, who predicted the Conservatives would win a '90-100 seat majority', wrote:

'I think Mr Corbyn has proved a lot of people, including me, completely wrong.'

In a typically dramatic flourish, Channel 4's Jon Snow's summation was harsh but fair:

'I know nothing. We the media, the pundits, the experts, know nothing.'

Guardian columnist Rafael Behr, who wrote in February, 'Jeremy Corbyn is running out of excuses', also ate humble pie:

'Fair play to Jeremy Corbyn and his team. They have done a lot of things I confidently thought they - he - could not do. I was wrong.'

In March, Observer columnist Nick Cohen graphically predicted that 'Corbyn's Labour won't just lose. It'll be slaughtered.' In an article titled, 'Don't tell me you weren't warned about Corbyn', Cohen indicated the words that would 'be flung' at Corbynites 'by everyone who warned that Corbyn's victory would lead to a historic defeat':

'I Told You So You Fucking Fools!'

Apparently frothing at the mouth, Cohen concluded by advising the idiots reading his column that, following the predicted electoral disaster, 'your only honourable response will be to stop being a fucking fool by changing your fucking mind'.

Awkward, then, for Cohen to now 'apologise to affronted Corbyn supporters... I was wrong'; presumably feeling like a fucking fool, having changed his fucking mind.

Tragicomically, Cohen then proceeded to be exactly as 'wrong' all over again:

'The links between the Corbyn camp and a Putin regime that persecutes genuine radicals. Corbyn's paid propaganda for an Iranian state that hounds gays, subjugates women and tortures prisoners. Corbyn and the wider left's indulgence of real antisemites (not just critics of Israel). They are all on the record. That Tory newspapers used them against the Labour leadership changes nothing.'

Former Guardian comment editor and senior columnist Jonathan Freedland spent two years writing a series of anti-Corbyn hit pieces (see our media alert for discussion). Last month, Freedland wrote under the title, 'No more excuses: Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for this meltdown', lamenting:

'What more evidence do they need? What more proof do the Labour leadership and its supporters require?'

Freedland helpfully relayed focus group opinion to the effect that Corbyn was a 'dope', 'living in the past', 'a joke', 'looking as if he knows less about it than I do'. Freedland has also, now, had no choice but to back down:

'Credit where it's due. Jeremy Corbyn defied those - including me - who thought he could not win seats for Lab. I was wrong.'

Like Freedland, senior Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee has relentlessly attacked Corbyn. On April 19, she wrote of how 'Corbyn is rushing to embrace Labour's annihilation':

'Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Was ever there a more crassly inept politician than Jeremy Corbyn, whose every impulse is to make the wrong call on everything?'

This week, Toynbee's tune had changed:

'Nothing succeeds like success. Jeremy Corbyn looks like a new man, beaming with confidence, benevolence and forgiveness to erstwhile doubters...'

Apparently channelling David Brent of The Office, Toynbee added:

'When I met him on Sunday he clasped my hand and, with a twinkle and a wink, thanked me for things I had written.'

With zero self-awareness, Toynbee noted that the Mail and Sun had helped Corbyn: 'by dredging up every accusation against him yet failing to frighten voters away, they have demolished their own power'.

Former Guardian political editor Michael White, yet another regular anti-Corbyn commentator, admitted:

'I was badly wrong. JC had much wider voter appeal than I realised'

Former Guardian journalist, Jonathan Cook, replied:

'Problem is you *all* got it wrong. That fact alone exposes structural flaw of corporate media. You don't represent us, you represent power'

White responded:

'You're not still banging on, are you Jonathan. You do talk some bollocks'

Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and New Statesman contributor Abi Wilkinson tweeted:

'Don't think some of people making demands about who Corbyn puts in shadow cabinet have particularly earned the right to be listened to...'

We paired this with Wilkinson's comment from June 2016:

'Any hope I once held about Corbyn's ability to steer the party in a more positive direction has been well and truly extinguished'

Wilkinson replied: 'oh fuck off', before concluding that we are 'two misogynistic cranks in a basement', and 'just some dickheads who aren't actually fit' to hold the media to account.

When a tweeter suggested that Corbyn's result was 'brilliant', New Statesman editor Jason Cowley replied: 'Yes, I agree.' Just three days earlier, Cowley had written under the ominous title:

'The Labour reckoning - Corbyn has fought a spirited campaign but is he leading the party to worst defeat since 1935?'

In March, Cowley opined:

'The stench of decay and failure coming from the Labour Party is now overwhelming - Speak to any Conservative MP and they will say that there is no opposition. Period.'

Like everyone else at the Guardian, columnist Owen Jones' initial instinct was to tweet away from his own viewspaper's ferocious anti-Corbyn campaign:

'The British right wing press led a vicious campaign of lies, smears, hatred and bigotry. And millions told them where to stick it'

And yet, as recently as April 18, Jones had depicted Corbyn as a pathetic figure:

'A man who stood only out of a sense of duty, to put policies on the agenda, and who certainly had no ambition to be leader, will now take Labour into a general election, against all his original expectations. My suggestion that Corbyn stand down in favour of another candidate was driven by a desire to save his policies...'

Jones has now also issued a mea culpa:

'I owe Corbyn, John McDonnell, Seumas Milne, his policy chief Andrew Fisher, and others, an unreserved, and heartfelt apology...

'I wasn't a bit wrong, or slightly wrong, or mostly wrong, but totally wrong. Having one foot in the Labour movement and one in the mainstream media undoubtedly left me more susceptible to their groupthink. Never again.'

We will see!

To his credit, Jones managed to criticise his own employer (something he had previously told us was unthinkable and absurd):

'Now that I've said I'm the rest of the mainstream commentariat, including in this newspaper, must confess they were wrong, too.'

Despite the blizzard of mea culpas from colleagues, George Monbiot also initially pointed well away from his employer:

'The biggest losers today are the billionaires who own the Mail, Sun, Times and Telegraph. And thought they owned the nation.'

And: 'It was The Sun wot got properly Cor-Binned'. And: 'By throwing every brick in the house at Corbyn, and still failing to knock him over, the billionaire press lost much of its power.'

After receiving criticism, and having of course seen Jones' mea culpa, Monbiot subsequently admitted that anti-Corbyn bias is found 'even in the media that's not owned by billionaires':

'This problem also affects the Guardian... Only the Guardian and the Mirror enthusiastically supported both Labour and Corbyn in election editorials.

'But the scales still didn't balance.'

This is a change from Monbiot's declared position of three years ago, when he rejected the idea that the Guardian was part of the problem. This week, he recalled his own dumping of Corbyn in a tweet from January: 'I have now lost all faith.' The full tweet read:

'I was thrilled when Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, but it has been one fiasco after another. I have now lost all faith.'

Monbiot blamed media bias on the way journalists are selected – 'We should actively recruit people from poorer backgrounds' - and wrote, curiously, 'the biggest problem, I believe, is that we spend too much time in each other's company'.

We suggested to Monbiot that this was not at all 'the biggest problem' with 'mainstream' media, and pointed instead to elite ownership, profit-orientation, advertiser dependence and use of state-subsidised 'news', as discussed by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their 'propaganda model'.

Jonathan Cook responded to Monbiot, describing the limits of free speech with searing honesty:

'This blindness even by a "radical" like Monbiot to structural problems in the media is not accidental either. Realistically, the furthest he can go is where he went today in his column: suggesting organisational flaws in the corporate media, ones that can be fixed, rather than structural ones that cannot without rethinking entirely how the media functions. Monbiot will not – and cannot – use the pages of the Guardian to argue that his employer is structurally incapable of providing diverse and representative coverage.

'Nor can he admit that his own paper polices its pages to limit what can be said on the left, to demarcate whole areas of reasonable thought as off-limits. To do so would be to end his Guardian career and consign him to the outer reaches of social media.'

The same, of course, applies to Jones, who made no attempt at all to account for corporate media bias.

Media grandee Will Hutton, former editor-in-chief of the Observer, now Principal of Hertford College, Oxford, wrote of 'How the rightwing tabloids got it wrong - It was the Sun wot hung it'. On Twitter, we reminded Hutton of his own article, one month earlier:

'Er, excuse us..! Will Hutton, May 7: "Never before in my adult life has the future seemed so bleak for progressives"'

Tragicomically, given the awesome extent of his employer's anti-Corbyn bias, John Cody Fidler-Simpson CBE, BBC World Affairs Editor, tweeted:

'I suspect we've seen the end of the tabloids as arbiters of UK politics. Sun, Mail & Express threw all they had into backing May, & failed.'

We replied:

'Likewise the "quality" press and the BBC, which has been so biased even a former chair of the BBC Trust spoke out'

Sir Michael Lyons, who chaired the BBC trust from 2007 to 2011, commented on the BBC's 'quite extraordinary attacks on the elected leader of the Labour party':

'I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality on this.'

Conclusion – The Corporate Media Monopoly Is Broken

One week before the election, the Guardian reported that 'a new force is shaping the general election debate':

'Alternative news sites are run from laptops and bedrooms miles from the much-derided "Westminster bubble" and have emerged as one of the most potent forces in election news sharing, according to research conducted for the Guardian by the web analytics company Kaleida.'

These alternative articles were 'being shared more widely online than the views of mainstream newspaper commentators'. Remarkably, 'Nothing from the BBC, the Guardian or the Daily Mail comes close' to the most-shared alternative media pieces. The Canary reported that it had doubled the number of visitors to its site to six million in May. A story by Evolve Politics, run by just two people, was shared 55,000 times on Facebook and was read at least 200,000 times. These websites 'explicitly offer a counter-narrative to what they deride as the "MSM" or mainstream media'.

Indeed, the evidence is now simply overwhelming - the 100-year big business monopoly of the mass media has been broken.

It is obvious that the right-wing press – the Daily Mail, the Sun, The Times and Telegraph – play a toxic role in manipulating the public to favour elite interests. But many people are now realising that the liberal press is actually the most potent opponent of progressive change. Journalist Matt Kennard commented:

'The Guardian didn't get it "wrong". It is the mouthpiece of a liberal elite that is financially endangered by a socialist program.'

In truth, the Guardian sought to destroy Corbyn long before he became Labour leader (see here and here). This means that it did not target him because he was an ineffective leader imperilling Labour. And this hostility was no aberration, not a well-intentioned mistake that they got 'wrong'. To this day, the Guardian remains Blair's great cheerleader, despite his awesome crimes, just as it was Hillary Clinton and Obama's cheerleader, and just as it was Bill Clinton's before them.

While employing a handful of compromised fig leaves, the Guardian has ruthlessly smeared anyone who has sought to challenge the status quo: Julian Assange, Russell Brand, Hugo Chavez, Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, John Pilger, George Galloway and many others. It has also been complicit in the great war crimes of Iraq, Libya and Syria – accepting fake government justifications for war at face value, ignoring expert sources who made a nonsense of the claims, and propagandising hard for the West's supposed 'responsibility to protect' the nations it so obviously seeks to destabilise and exploit.

In our view, the corporate journalists who should be treated with most caution are precisely those celebrated as 'dissidents'. Corporate media give Owen Jones, George Monbiot, Paul Mason and others immense outreach to draw 100,000s of progressives back to a filtered, corporate version of the world that favours established power and stifles progressive change. Above all, as Jonathan Cook says, the unwritten rule is that they will not speak out on the inherent structural corruption of a corporate media system reporting on a world dominated by corporations.

This is crucial, because, as last week confirms, and as we have been arguing for 16 years, if change begins anywhere, it begins with the public challenging, exposing and rejecting, not just the right-wing press, but the corporate media as a whole, the 'liberal-left' very much included.

In the last month, we witnessed astonishing numbers of people challenging all media, all the time on every bias – we have never seen anything like it. The young, in particular, are learning that they do not need highly-paid, privileged corporate employees to tell them what to think.

We don't need to tolerate a corporate-filtered view of the world. We can inform ourselves and each other, and we can do so with very much more honesty, courage and compassion than any corporate journalist. If there is one message from last week, it's a simple one – dump the corporate media; all of it.