Saturday, May 28, 2016

Je Suis Daniel Blake: Loach Palme d'Or Winner Indicts Systemic Economic Inequality

I, Daniel Blake

by Craig Murray

26 May, 2016

More space has been devoted by the mainstream media in the last week to the terrible effects of “austerity” on the vulnerable, than in total since the Westminster election.

That is entirely in the context of Ken Loach’s Cannes Palme d’Or winning film I, Daniel Blake.

The film itself will now get a much greater cinema distribution than it might otherwise have anticipated.

I think it is worth highlighting some excellent points made at the winners’ press conference:

Ken Loach:

We talked about finding a style that was absolutely clear and plain and unadorned…there’s a quotation from Bertolt Brecht…”and I always thought the simplest of words must suffice. When I say what things are like, it will break the hearts of all”. And the thing that we tried to do is to say what things are like, because it not only breaks your heart, but it should make you angry.

It is an issue not just for people in our country, but all across Europe. There is a conscious cruelty in the way we are organising our lives now, where the most vulnerable people are told that their poverty is their own fault. If you have no work, it’s your fault you haven’t got a job. Never mind that… throughout Europe there’s mass unemployment and in Britain there’s two million known unemployed but in reality four million. And the most vulnerable people are caught, disabled people are caught. The increase in suicides… in fact in the places where these assessments take place, some people who work there have been given instructions on how to deal with potential suicides, so they know this is going on… It is deeply shocking that this is happening at the heart of our world… the heart of it is a shocking, shocking policy.

Paul Laverty (scriptwriter):

After travelling the country, in Scotland and all the way down to England, travelling round foodbanks, listening to people’s stories, talking to welfare rights organisations, disabled groups, what was remarkable was how many of the most vulnerable people were the ones who bore the brunt of it. Now in this particular instance Daniel is a very competent man who has had a life of work, who’s got friends, who’s smart, intelligent, he’s had a very, very full life. But what really amazed us was talking to experts… the people who work with mental health, the stories we heard about that would just break your heart.

The people who are disabled, they have suffered six times more from the cuts than anyone else, and there was a remarkable phrase by one of the civil servants we heard who talked about the cuts, who said “low-lying fruit”, in other words the easy targets. So this story could have been much harsher, it could have been somebody with mental health difficulties… we could have told a story from someone who is much more vulnerable, much more heartbreaking.

I think it’s very important to remember too the systematic nature of it….talking to whistleblowers, people who worked inside the Department of Work and Pensions… there are several people we met, and they spoke to us anonymously, and they said they were humiliated how they were forced to treat the public. So there is nothing accidental about it, and it is affecting a huge section of the population.

I have inveighed long and hard against the massive increase in the wealth gap between the rich and poor in the UK and in the West in general. It is great to see popular resistance today in France to the extreme erosion of workers’ rights that has facilitated this.

In an indisputable measure of the growing inequality in society, the life expectancy gap between rich and poor is growing for the first time in 150 years. Let me say that again.

The life expectancy gap between rich and poor is growing for the first time in 150 years. 

Our desperately unequal society now becomes more unequal at an exponential rate. The UK has more than 100 billionaires, and it has foodbanks and children crying from hunger, not developing properly due to malnutrition.

I sense a true swelling of popular discontent that has the potential to break through the consent manufactured by a billionaire-owned media and billionaire-owned politicians.

NFL's Goal-Line Stand Against Science and Reason

NFL’s War Against Science and Reason

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

May 25, 2016

Perhaps it’s because I just watched the movie, “Concussion,” which tells the story of the National Football League’s haughty denial of the science proving football-related brain damage – and the NFL’s abuse of the truth-tellers – but I still can’t understand why so many people side with Commissioner Roger Goodell in the absurd “Deflategate” case against Tom Brady.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Surely, the NFL’s four-game suspension of the New England Patriots quarterback on the charge of tampering with the air pressure of footballs is not as serious as the NFL covering up the dangers from concussions (reminiscent of how the cigarette industry long denied links between smoking and cancer), but the Brady case is a microcosm of how power works and how checks and balances, including the major news media, fail. 

What seems to have happened behind the scenes of Deflategate is that once the controversy got started with a leak from the NFL, followed by intense coverage before the 2015 Super Bowl game, the NFL didn’t want to admit its own stupidity, since none of the officials involved knew the basic physics of how environmental conditions can affect the air pressure of a football, a piece of knowledge that might have stopped this nonsense in its tracks.

However, as the controversy dragged on, another factor arose. Rival team owners – sitting on the NFL Management Council – saw an opportunity to diminish the Patriots who have been a dominant team in the NFL since Brady emerged as a starter in 2001. Goodell admitted as much in his ruling rejecting Brady’s appeal of the suspension. Goodell said he allowed the Management Council to weigh in, urging certain facts be viewed in a hostile way against Brady.

In other words, owners who had suffered painful losses at the hands of Brady and the Patriots were permitted inside the process for deciding whether the Patriots star quarterback would be banned for a quarter of a season, thus giving these rival teams a better chance to climb over the Patriots and possibly win a Super Bowl.

Goodell said the Management Council, which controls his $35 million salary, urged him to view the absence of two Patriots equipment employees at the appeal hearing as proof of Brady’s guilt (even though the employees had testified repeatedly in other venues and had consistently denied tampering with the game balls).

Recognizing how fiercely competitive — and how thoroughly unscrupulous — some of these team owners are, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they would exploit any chance to hurt a rival.

But what that means is that Goodell’s protestation about him punishing Brady and the Patriots over Deflategate “to protect the integrity of the game” is just another NFL lie. Indeed, the opposite is the truth: the entire episode has been an assault on the integrity of the game, already partly implemented by stripping the Patriots of a first-round pick in the recent NFL draft.

Media Failure

The major U.S. news media also bent to the power of the NFL or gave in to a bias against Brady and the Patriots. Despite all the attention that the “Deflategate” saga received, ESPN, the nation’s top sports network which has a cozy multi-billion-dollar relationship with the NFL, failed to conduct any serious assessment of the dubious science behind the charges that the Patriots deflated footballs for the AFC Championship game on Jan. 18, 2015.


New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady.

Over the past 16 months, ESPN essentially ignored the findings of many reputable scientists who disputed the NFL’s calculations. ESPN’s “Sport Science” did do a segment showing how miniscule the effect would be from a slight reduction in pounds per square inch of a football. But ESPN’s investigative unit “E:60” waited until the past few weeks before allowing on a cute spot showing how a seventh-grader named Ben Goodell (no relation to Roger) won a science-fair prize by demonstrating that weather conditions explained the drop in the footballs’ internal pressure.

But ESPN wasn’t alone in its journalistic negligence. Pretty much every mainstream news outlet, including The New York Times, has overwhelmingly taken the NFL’s side in this dispute. Yet, in doing so, the mainstream media ignored an interesting underlying story about how a giant corporation can do almost anything it wants even to one of its brightest stars (deeming him a perjurer and a cheater based on virtually no evidence) and there seems to be nothing anyone can do to stop it – although Brady is still placing some hope in the federal courts.

After Goodell oversaw the entire NFL investigation – from the accusation to the finding of guilt to the appeal – Brady did win one round when U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman reviewed the case and found the process so arbitrary that he rescinded the suspension. However, because the NFL had maneuvered to put the case in a notoriously management-friendly federal court district in Manhattan, the league prevailed 2-1 before a U.S. Court of Appeals panel.

This week, Brady’s lawyers, led by prominent attorney Theodore Olson, filed a motion seeking a rehearing before the full Court of Appeals. The motion condemned “Goodell’s biased, agenda-driven, and self-approving ‘appeal’ ruling,” noting that Goodell had altered the reasons and logic for punishing Brady, thus denying Brady his legal rights.

The filing also said the court’s 2-1 ruling in favor of the NFL “will harm not just NFL players, but all unionized workers who have bargained for appeal rights as a protection — not as an opportunity for management to salvage a deficient disciplinary action by conjuring up new grounds for the punishment.”

Olson noted, too, that the NFL officials didn’t know the physics of footballs. “As NFL officials later admitted, no one involved understood that environmental factors alone — such as the cold and rainy weather during the game — could cause significant deflation,” the filing said.

“Nor did any NFL official claim that the underinflated balls affected the game’s outcome, particularly since Brady’s performance in the second half of the AFC Championship Game — after the Patriots game balls were re-inflated — improved.” (The Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 and then went on to win the Super Bowl.)

But Brady’s lawyers and the seventh-grader with his science project weren’t the only ones to recognize the weakness of the NFL’s grasp of physics. In support of Brady’s request for a rehearing, a legal brief was filed this week with the U.S. Court of Appeals by 21 professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of California, Berkeley; University of Michigan; Stanford University; University of Southern California; University of Delaware; Purdue University; University of Pennsylvania; Boston College; and the University of Minnesota.

Noting that deflation happens naturally whenever a ball is moved from a warm to a cold environment, the scientists said, “This is not tampering. It is science. And it pervades the NFL. Games routinely are played with footballs that fall below the league’s minimum pressure requirement.”

The scientists added that “Courts should not be powerless to consider the absence of scientific proof when a proceeding is so interlaced with laws of science.” However, so far, the courts have only addressed procedural issues regarding the scope of Goodell’s powers, avoiding a full-scale testing of the NFL’s evidentiary case.

If a court did undertake an assessment of the case’s merits, a number of interesting facts might come out that the major media has largely ignored. For instance, Olson’s filing noted that the work of the NFL’s consultants “hired to deny that environmental factors accounted for the pressure levels has been derided by independent physicists as junk science.”

The NFL hired Exponent, the same “science” consultant that took on the task of “disproving” the links between second-hand smoke and cancer. Exponent also has been the hired-gun for companies fighting accusations of toxic waste, asbestos exposure and car malfunctions.

In evaluating the NFL’s halftime football pressure tests of Jan. 18, 2015, Exponent accepted the parameters dictated by the NFL’s lawyers, including key ones regarding the sequencing of the halftime tests on a cold and rainy night in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The sequencing was important because the longer the balls were returned to a warm and dry room for examination the more the air pressure would go back up.

The timing distorted the comparative tests on several footballs used by the Indianapolis Colts which were tested later during halftime. Those footballs also registered below the legal level of 12.5 PSI on the one gauge that the NFL determined was accurate, but the drop-off was not as much as with the Patriots’ footballs that were tested earlier.

Ironically, the Colts, who were the ones who instigated the tests after intercepting a Brady pass and noting its below-12.5-PSI measurement, were allowed to continue using underinflated balls for the second half, meaning they played with underinflated footballs for both halves of the game while the Patriots’ footballs were pumped back up to above 12.5 PSI.

A Slanted Case

After the game, some NFL official leaked the initial finding of the Patriots having underinflated footballs in the first half but lied about the Colts’ footballs, claiming that they did not fall below the 12.5 PSI level. That falsehood, which was only corrected months later, led many football fans to jump to the conclusion that  Brady and the Patriots must be guilty.


In evaluating the halftime data, Exponent only took into account the field’s chilly temperature (not the rain and the pre-game conditioning of the balls which also could have contributed to a lower PSI), but concluded that all or virtually all of the loss in PSI occurred naturally. Still, that slight uncertainty gave the NFL the space it needed to conclude that something else (i.e. intentional tampering) had occurred.

Goodell and his team then seized on innocuous actions (such as the ball boy Jim McNally stopping in a bathroom on his way to the field) or innocent gestures (such as Brady autographing a football for locker-room attendant John Jastremski ) as proof of a vile conspiracy.

The NFL also twisted text messages between McNally and Jastremski out of context. For example, one exchange about why footballs in an earlier game against the New York Jets had been over-inflated by NFL officials (above 13.5 PSI) was cited as proof of a deflation conspiracy. But the import of the exchange was actually the opposite, since neither party made any comment about why they had failed to deflate the balls below the legal limit, which would have been a natural expectation if indeed there was a deflation conspiracy.

In denying Brady’s appeal, Goodell acknowledged as much stating that the only time that the Patriots could have deflated footballs was before the 2015 AFC Championship game because only then did McNally carry the balls unattended to the field (and stopped briefly in a bathroom).

While that admission by Goodell knocked the legs out from under the larger conspiracy theory of the Patriots routinely deflating footballs, it also left out a key fact: the reason that McNally was unattended was because the earlier NFC Championship game had gone into overtime, forcing a delay in the start of the AFC game.

When the NFC game ended abruptly, there was confusion and urgency in the referees’ lounge. Since it was the responsibility of McNally to get the balls to the field, he took them there without waiting for a referee to accompany him.

The point, however, is that this situation was an unanticipated anomaly. It’s absurd to think that Brady and the Patriots were counting on the NFC game going into overtime, which would then delay the start of their game and cause McNally to be left unattended so he could then slip into a bathroom and – instead of relieving himself as he testified that he did – deflate a bag full of game balls so they could have a miniscule effect on Brady’s passing game.

But the absurdity of the conspiracy theory only underscores the unrestrained power of the NFL as an institution. If it says up is down, then it must be believed.

If some court would require a full presentation of the evidence, the process might open the door to the NFL’s motives in pursuing this silly case with a Javert-like zeal – whether to cover up the league’s incompetence or to give rival owners a competitive edge over the Patriots.

The CTE Scandal

The NFL showed similar arrogance and disrespect for science in its handling of the concussion issue. As the movie “Concussion” shows – and a PBS documentary further demonstrates – the NFL tried to silence early discoverers of the brain damage caused by routine football contact.


Dr. Bennet Omalu

Though the movie adds a few fictional flourishes, it is essentially a true story about Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Pittsburgh pathologist from Nigeria who was assigned to examine the body of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster and discovered a previously undiagnosed disease now known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

When Omalu’s findings were published, the NFL handpicked three doctors to refute his findings and demand that they be retracted. It was a classic case of a powerful corporation trying to destroy a little-known scientist who uncovered an inconvenient truth. The personal attacks on Omalu and other doctors who built on his initial findings grew so ugly that Omalu has said he regretted ever being assigned Webster’s autopsy.

As the evidence of a CTE epidemic among NFL and other football players continues to mount, the NFL still keeps trying to rig the scientific investigation, according to a congressional report released this week.

“Our investigation has shown that while the NFL had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research,” the study said.
“The NFL attempted to use its ‘unrestricted gift’ as leverage to steer funding away from one of its critics.”

For its part, the NFL rejected the charge by Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce but added “There is no dispute that there were concerns raised about both the nature of the study in question and possible conflicts of interest,” an apparent reference to the fact that Dr. Robert Stern was a neurologist at Boston University, which spearheaded studies that confirmed Dr. Omalu’s initial findings.

After Dr. Stern was awarded the CTE project, the NFL reneged on its commitment to provide $16 million for the work, the congressional study said.

“The NFL’s troublesome interactions with the NIH fit a longstanding pattern of attempts to influence scientific understanding of degenerative diseases and sports-related head trauma,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey, who oversaw the study.

In other words, the arrogant NFL remains at war with science and facts, a reality underscored by its cover-up of concussion dangers and by its witch hunt against Tom Brady.

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

Occupation at Secwepemc Nation: Williams Lake Band Office Stand for Transparency/Accountability

Press Releases from William Lakes Indian Band Office Occupation

by Warrior Publications

May 26, 2016

On Tuesday morning, members of the Secwepemc Nation evicted the Chief and Band Council of Williams Lake/Sugar Cane Indian Reserve from the Williams Lake/Sugar Cane Band Office and have continued to non-violently occupy the office since.

The RCMP, aiming their guns at the unarmed Secwepemc occupiers, immediately surrounded the building and arrested April Thomas, a Secwepemc woman who just returned from presenting the plight of the Secwepemc Nation to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva and is known in the community for her opposition to the elected band council system.

Those occupying the office are unarmed and have cited ongoing corruption, lack of transparency and accountability and regular forcible evictions in the midst of a growing housing crisis under the direction of the Williams Lake Indian Band Chief and Council as their reasons for closing the band office until further notice.

“The illegal eviction of Sheldon Wycotte and his family less than a week ago from the home his grandfather privately owned and helped build is further proof that Williams Lake Indian Band Chief and Council are in breach of their fiduciary obligations to act in the best interests of the people.
 There is no accountability or transparency in the decisions the Chief and Band Council makes, millions of dollars are missing and unaccounted for, our land is being sold out from underneath us and we are all suffering as a result.” – April Thomas, Williams Lake Community Member, Secwepemc Nation


Media Contact:
April Thomas,


The Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society has joined the non-violent occupation of the Secwepemc Williams Lake Indian Band Office to continue to fight for our Nation, our Women, our Youth, our Future Generations. A sacred fire has been lit to call our People together to address the corruption of the Elected Chief and Band Council system imposed on us by the colonial Canadian government.

RCMP officers, aiming their guns at the unarmed Secwepemc occupiers, have surrounded the building and have arrested and charged April Thomas, a Secwepemc woman who just returned from presenting the plight of the Secwepemc Nation to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva and is known in the community for her opposition to the elected band council system.

Secwepemc families are being forcibly and illegally removed from their homes in the midst of a housing crisis, our People live in poverty and debt while millions of dollars borrowed from the federal and provincial governments for the illegal NSTQ treaty are unaccounted for, and those who attempt to defend their Territories, themselves or their families are targeted by the Chief and Band Council.

The structure of the Indian Chief and Band Council system, created and enforced by the Federal Canadian colonial government allows for decisions to be made by the Chief and Council without the knowledge and consent of the People. This is unacceptable. After exhausting all other means to address our ongoing concerns, we stand here now demanding to be heard. We will not tolerate the use of the RCMP in internal Nation matters, and we will certainly not tolerate the continued use of the RCMP in dealing with the unsettled land issue.

Our Lands were never ceded or surrendered and cannot be ceded or surrendered without the full, free, prior and informed consent of our People. The actions of the Chief and Band council, without the consent of the people, are therefore illegal and we do not recognize them. This includes all unlawful evictions of Secwepemc families and any and all decisions in regards to resource extractive industry, the NSTQ Treaty and our Territories.

All decisions made in regards to the Nation and our People must be made with the consent of our People, there is currently no participatory decision making protocol or policy that allows for this within the Elected Chief and Council system. Until the People are included in the decision making of the Nation, all decisions made by any other body claiming to represent Williams Lake Indian Band or the Secwepemc Nation are declared null and void.

We will continue to occupy the Williams Lake Indian Band office until further notice. We ask that Anne Louie, elected Chief, meet with us in person immediately to begin discussions in reference to our concerns. In solidarity with the INAC occupations across Canada and Indigenous resistance worldwide.

BC Hydro Denies SLAPPing Site C Protesters, Though Suit Threat Hangs

Lawsuit still 'hanging over' former Site C protest campers - BC Hydro denies SLAPP suit claims

by Jonny Wakefield - Alaska Highway News

May 27, 2016

Nearly three months have passed since Site C opponents packed up their camp at the historic Rocky Mountain Fort site on the banks of the Peace River, which blocked construction on the controversial dam for 62 days.

While the camp has gone away, BC Hydro’s civil suit against six of the campers hasn’t.

Two of those campers say the Crown corporation's lawsuit, which led to an injunction to remove the camp in February, is still on the books and doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

Critics of the project have said the court action smacks of a SLAPP suit—a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. BC Hydro denies the claim, saying it supports protest against the dam that doesn't disrupt construction.

Ken Boon, a Peace Valley farmer and prominent dam critic, said BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald visited his home in Bear Flats on a recent trip to Fort St. John.

"That was one of the topics that came up, that civil suit," he said in an interview.
"We asked if BC Hydro would consider dropping that civil suit, because the conditions in that civil suit are over. It seems to me like the civil suit should be null and void."

Boon stressed that BC Hydro took no issue with their continued advocacy against the dam—so long as it doesn’t physically impede construction.

He said McDonald asked if they would consider "signing a document…stating something to the effect that we wouldn’t do any further action.” While he said he didn't speak for the other defendants named in the suit, "there’s no real interest from anybody that we spoke to to sign some kind of document just to make that civil suit go away."

It remains to be seen how the suit will impact future protests against the dam.

BC Hydro could pursue damages through the lawsuit, Boon said. "They could potentially squish anyone of us like a bug and we’d be done. That just doesn’t seem right for (a Crown corporation) to be behaving in that way," he said.

Helen Knott, another camper named in the civil case, said the lawsuit is "kind of hanging over everyone" involved in the protest.

"In the initial claim, there were damages in that, but they haven’t moved forward on anything," she said, adding it "feels like it’s a preventative measure."

Jason Gratl, who represented the six Site C defendants in the injunction hearing, said injunctions granted on a temporary basis tend to have lasting impacts.

"Practically speaking, they turn out to be permanent injunctions because neither the project proponent nor the defendant protesters have any incentive to take the civil action through to trial," he said in an interview.

"It just stays there,” he added, because defendants typically don’t have the funds to fight the matter in court, while “the cost of litigation for the plaintiffs far exceeds the anticipated reward."

Site C spokesperson Dave Conway disputed the claim that BC Hydro is involved in a SLAPP suit.

"Recent articles confuse lawful and peaceful protest with the physical blockade of construction work," he wrote in an email.
"BC Hydro repeatedly asked the protesters to allow the construction work to continue, but they refused. We were left with no choice but to commence a civil claim and apply to the court for an injunction."

He said BC Hydro has established a "safe protest zone" near the entrance to the dam site.

"BC Hydro understands that some individuals have strong opinions on Site C and we fully respect the rights of those individuals to express their views," he said.
"While we would prefer not to go to court, we also have an obligation to our customers to deliver this important public project on time and on budget."

Site C, the third dam on the Peace River, will flood around 83-kilometres of river valley and generate 1,100 megawatts of power.

Campers at the Rocky Mountain Fort—the site of a former fur trade post—said they were blocking construction until the outcome of two First Nations lawsuits aimed at stopping the dam.

Hitler's Hand in the American Election

Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump

by Jeffrey St. Clair - CounterPunch

May 27, 2016

Marco Rubio was the first to warn us. In March, Little Marco admonished all Americans to scrutinize Trump’s hands before giving him their vote, hands which Rubio rather giddily alleged served as a signifier of the tycoon’s secret short-comings.

So look closely at those mitts and digits: the short, rather stubby fingers, the neatly polished nails, the fleshy palms, all immaculately bronzed, as if dipped in a fine shellac.

What are we to make of them? Is there a political precedent for such wonderfully manicured but physically diminutive political paws?

Adolf Hitler’s hand print, taken at 
Hotel Kaiserhof, Berlin.

For purposes of edification, let us consult a little known encounter between two of the 20th century’s most consequential philosophers, one celebrated, one infamous.

The setting is Germany. The year is 1933. The scene is the Heidelberg house of Karl Jaspers and his Jewish wife and collaborator Gertrude. A guest is coming for dinner, an old friend and fellow phenomenologist who had just been appointed rector of Freiburg University. The meal is meant to be a celebration of their friend’s lofty new post.

The guest is, of course, none other than Martin Heidegger, author of the opaquely written but massively influential Being and Time. What Karl and Gertrude Jaspers don’t know, but will soon discover to their disbelief, is that their friend and intellectual sparring partner has just joined the National Socialist Germany Workers Party and arrives at their doorstep wearing a shiny Nazi pin on his lapel.

A debate between the two big brains soon erupts over a meal of Sauerbraten and potato dumplings. When Jaspers assails Heidegger’s pact with the Nazis, Heidegger waves his hand dismissively and ominously advises Karl and Gertrude that it is now time for “one to step in line.”

Jaspers counters: “But my dear friend, you can’t possibly mean that. It’s like 1914 all over again. The deceitful mass intoxication! What about the pursuit of knowledge, which the Nazis demean? What about education, which Hitler lacks and thus reviles?”
Heidegger cuts Jaspers off abruptly. “Education is irrelevant,” the moral philosopher of Nazism shouts.
“Just look at his wonderful hands!”

Moral: the smaller the hands, the more fanatic the compensation.

[Cautionary note: You might want to size up Hillary’s diminutive hands before you cast that fatal ballot.]

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at:

 Further Reading.

Karl Jaspers, “A Philosophical Autobiography,” The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers, ed. by P.A. Schlipp (Open Court, 1981).

Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails. (Other Press, 2016).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Unheard World War

Eerie Silence About a New World War

by John Pilger  - Consortium News

May 27, 2016

Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention. The great counter revolution had begun.

Mushroom cloud from atomic bomb dropped
on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King Jr., had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.

“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.” So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. 

He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.

The millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took their own lives. A friend of mine, a Marine who became a paraplegic in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”

A few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by] air strikes of unprecedented precision.” The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the price of freedom.

No Debate about Endless War

The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

President Barack Obama and a boy from the education documentary “Waiting for Superman” fist-bump in the Oval Office, Oct. 11, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened. … Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter.”

Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is “cool.” One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried. Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.

In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernizing” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable.”

James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the U.S. Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said,

“[One] great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”

Obama’s Legacy

On Obama’s watch, a second Cold War is under way. The Russian president is a pantomime villain; the Chinese are not yet back to their sinister pig-tailed caricature – when all Chinese were banned from the United States – but the media warriors are working on it.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has mentioned any of this. There is no risk and no danger for the United States and all of us. For them, the greatest military build-up on the borders of Russia since World War Two has not happened. On May 11, Romania went “live” with a NATO “missile defense” base that strengthens the ability of first-strike American missiles to strike at the heart of Russia, the world’s second nuclear power.

In Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and special forces to the Philippines to threaten China. The U.S. already encircles China with hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a “pivot.”

As a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert and put to sea submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.

It was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State in 2010, elevated the competing territorial claims for rocks and reef in the South China Sea to an international issue; CNN and BBC hysteria followed; China was building airstrips on the disputed islands. In its mammoth war game in 2015, Operation Talisman Sabre, the U.S. practiced “choking” the Straits of Malacca through which pass most of China’s oil and trade. This was not news.

Clinton declared that America had a “national interest” in these Asian waters. The Philippines and Vietnam were encouraged and bribed to pursue their claims and old enmities against China. In America, people are being primed to see any Chinese defensive position as offensive, and so the ground is laid for rapid escalation. A similar strategy of provocation and propaganda is applied to Russia.

A ‘Feminism’ of Bloody Coups

Clinton, the “women’s candidate,” leaves a trail of bloody coups: in Honduras, in Libya (plus the murder of the Libyan president) and Ukraine. The latter is now a CIA theme park swarming with Nazis and the frontline of a beckoning war with Russia. It was through Ukraine – literally, borderland – that Hitler’s Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people. This epic catastrophe remains a presence in Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign has received money from all but one of the world’s ten biggest arms companies. No other candidate comes close.

Sanders, the hope of many young Americans, is not very different from Clinton in his proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He backed Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. He supports Obama’s terrorism by drone, the provocation of Russia and the return of special forces (death squads) to Iraq. He has nothing to say on the drumbeat of threats to China and the accelerating risk of nuclear war. He agrees that Edward Snowden should stand trial and he calls Hugo Chavez – like him, a social democrat – “a dead communist dictator.” He promises to support Clinton if she is nominated.

The election of Trump or Clinton is the old illusion of choice that is no choice: two sides of the same coin. In scapegoating minorities and promising to “make America great again,” Trump is a far-right-wing domestic populist; yet the danger of Clinton may be more lethal for the world.

“Only Donald Trump has said anything meaningful and critical of U.S. foreign policy,” wrote Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, one of the few Russia experts in the United States to speak out about the risk of war.

In a radio broadcast, Cohen referred to critical questions Trump alone had raised. Among them: why is the United States “everywhere on the globe”? What is NATO’s true mission? Why does the U.S. always pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why does Washington treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy?

The Trump Hysteria

The hysteria in the liberal media over Trump serves an illusion of “free and open debate” and “democracy at work.” His views on immigrants and Muslims are grotesque, yet the deporter-in-chief of vulnerable people from America is not Trump but Obama, whose betrayal of people of color is his legacy: such as the warehousing of a mostly black prison population, now more numerous than Stalin’s gulag.

This presidential campaign may not be about populism but American liberalism, an ideology that sees itself as modern and therefore superior and the one true way. Those on its right wing bear a likeness to Nineteenth Century Christian imperialists, with a God-given duty to convert or co-opt or conquer.

In Britain, this is Blairism. The Christian war criminal Tony Blair got away with his secret preparation for the invasion of Iraq largely because the liberal political class and media fell for his “cool Britannia.” In the Guardian, the applause was deafening; he was called “mystical.” A distraction known as identity politics, imported from the United States, rested easily in his care.

History was declared over, class was abolished and gender promoted as feminism; lots of women became New Labour MPs. They voted on the first day of Parliament to cut the benefits of single parents, mostly women, as instructed. A majority voted for an invasion that produced 700,000 Iraqi widows.

The equivalent in the U.S. is the presence of politically correct warmongers on the New York Times, the Washington Post and network TV who dominate political debate. I watched a furious debate on CNN about Trump’s infidelities. It was clear, they said, a man like that could not be trusted in the White House. No issues were raised. Nothing on the 80 per cent of Americans whose income has collapsed to 1970s levels. Nothing on the drift to war.

The received wisdom seems to be “hold your nose” and vote for Clinton: anyone but Trump. That way, you stop the monster and preserve a system gagging for another war.

John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist based in London. Pilger’s Web site is:

Passing: Hedy Epstein

Hedy Epstein (1924-2016)

by Mazin Qumsiyeh -

May 27, 2016

The Israeli minister of Environment joined the previous defense minister to quit the Zionist regime’s government because it is becoming more extreme. With the addition of bar bouncer colonial settler Avigdor Lieberman (has a house in an illegal colony here in Bethlehem), the fascist government is now in good shape to take Israel to the next inevitable stage along.

The same trend-line that Nazi Germany took step-wise in the 1930s.

It is no wonder that so many more people are now drawing parallels between the two regimes with similar exclusivist ideologies (Nazism and Zionism). Thousands of Israeli Jews from Israel Shahak to Israeli General and Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan have already made the comparison to the consternation of the Zionist leadership. Ken Livingstone's truthful statement, that Hitler supported Zionism early on, is well supported by facts (see my own writing on the subject with quotes here:

Pioneers to draw parallel of actions of Nazis and Zionists and speak out for justice for the native Palestinians were Holocaust survivors both inside “Israel” (like Shahak and Davis) and outside like Hajo Meyer and Hedy Epstein. Hedy just passed away, and I knew her for almost 20 years as one of the most principled dedicated and hardworking individuals.

I hesitated to ask her to join our wheels of justice bus tour in 2002 because of her age (then in her 80s) but she did not hesitate in accepting and she was just marvelous. She spoke out with authority and knowledge about the ethnic cleansing and the massacres committed in Palestine by Zionists. She also joined the boats trying to break the siege on Gaza.

When she was in her late 80s she was strip searched and poked by Israeli security forces at Lod (renamed “Ben Gurion”) Airport.

Please browse her website here to know more about this remarkable woman:

An obituary on Mondoweiss

Leading Israeli human rights group says ‘no longer any point’ to filing complaints against soldiers (system is not possible to address such complaints)

And in GOOD news: Dysfunctional Israeli leadership failing utterly in battle against BDS, state watchdog warns

Stay human

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Damning Scientific Assessment of Site C Dam Does Not Dissuade Government

Trudeau Must Fix Site C Dam Fiasco

by Wilderness Committee

May 26, 2016

VANCOUVER - The Wilderness Committee is demanding that Prime Minister Trudeau refuse to sign off on any new federal permits required for Site C construction after a damning report by leading Canadian scientists.

Wilderness Committee demands that no permits issued for dam construction.

“We are calling on the Prime Minister to stop the dam. In the wake of 250 scientists issuing a scathing statement of concern, it’s important that Trudeau considers the jarring financial, human rights and environmental impacts detailed in the report,” said Joe Foy, National Campaign Director at the Wilderness Committee.

The scientists and researchers also sent a letter to the Prime Minister calling into question the original process used for approving the dam project.

“The federal government’s position is that projects like the Site C Dam that were approved by the previous Conservative government will not be re-visited,” said Foy.  
“This is an outrageous position and a slap in the face to those who have been demanding justice. BC taxpayers are being fleeced and First Nations and farmers lands are being flooded for this dam project — the government must to do the right thing.”

The scientists found that the environmental assessment for the Site C Dam project did not consider whether or not the dam would constitute an infringement of First Nation rights.

“The Prime Minister has declared that Canada will honour the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights. However, he continues to sit on his hands while the environment minister tells us we must accept 83 kilometres of the Peace River being destroyed. This hypocrisy is utterly unacceptable," said Foy.

The scientists say that it's not too late to stop the dam project, even though clearing of old-growth forest, construction of a work camp — which the B.C. government says is worth billions of dollars — has already started.

“The Site C Dam is projected to cost almost $9 billion. That is a lot of public money to pay for a project that ruins a valley and destroys our credibility on human rights. The time to stop this boondoggle is now," said Foy.


For Immediate Release -
For more information, please contact:

Joe Foy | National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee

She Is [Not] a Crook! Hillary's Nixon Moment Comes Early

Key issue not being addressed is secret financial deals: With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Needs to Demand Answers

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

May 26, 2016

When it comes to Hillary Clinton’s State Department email scandal, reporters -- and even her right-wing critics in the Republican Party -- are asking the wrong question.

As hard drive erasures and a secrecy obsession make
Clinton's email scandal increasingly Nixonian,
Sanders needs to stop being polite and start
asking hard questions about her motives

Sure, doing all her official business on an unprotected, unscrambled private server in her own home and on an unsecured private Blackberry phone device means that any two-bit spy outfit, not to mention sophisticated ones like those of Russia, Iran, Israel or China, could easily hack it and read secret State Department and other agency communications. But really, those entities have ways of getting that kind of secret stuff anyhow.

The real question is what kind of private conversations Clinton, in her role as Secretary of State, was having with powerful people both at home and abroad that may have involved cash donations to the Clinton Foundation and to her and Bill’s personal enrichment or her future campaign for president.

Hillary Clinton is a lawyer, and while she’s slippery, she’s no dummy. She may have played dumb when asked earlier by reporters about her server’s hard drive being wiped clean of data before she turned it over to the FBI, saying, “What, like with a cloth or something? I don’t know how it works at all,” but she surely was involved in the deletion of her private emails -- over 30,000 of which were reportedly erased.

And those erasures were made without any involvement of State Department security or legal officials. The decision, according to Clinton, on which emails were “private communications,” was made by her personal attorney, whose interest, by definition, was her and not the public or even national security for that matter.

As the Washington Post has reported, the Clintons went from being, as Hillary Clinton has said, “dead broke” upon leaving the White House in January 2000, to earning some $230 million by this year -- a staggering sum of money even in a new Gilded Age of obscene wealth. Most of this money has been little more than influence buying by corporations and wealthy people trying to curry favor with a woman who was already Secretary of State, perhaps the second-most powerful position in the US government and whom many expected to become the next president after Obama.

It beggars belief to think that Hillary Clinton wasn’t hiding such conversations when she had her private emails deleted from her server.

The power couple’s two foundations, the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, now together reportedly worth more than $2 billion, both function effectively as money-laundering operations providing salaries to Clinton family members and friends. And Hillary Clinton, particularly while serving as President Obama’s secretary of state, was in a perfect position to do favors for unsavory foreign leaders seeking to have their countries kept off of State Department lists of human rights violators, and for US businesses seeking lucrative business deals abroad. It’s those kinds of email conversations that would have benefitted from a private server, since US State Department official computers have dedicated back-up systems that would be hard or impossible to wipe, and are also by law subject to Freedom of Information inquiries from journalists and the public.

The FBI is known to be investigating Clinton’s private emails, with as many as 100 FBI personnel assigned to the investigation. Already, one key privately hired tech assistant who worked on Clinton’s private server, Bryan Pagliano, has become a cooperating witness, granted immunity from prosecution [1] by the US Justice Department in that investigation (usually an indication that the FBI is expecting to indict someone else). Key Clinton aides, notably her top aide Huma Abedin, have also been interviewed by FBI agents, with the expectation that Clinton will be interviewed herself soon by federal agents. But there is no indication from the Justice Department or the FBI as to when, if ever, the results of that investigation will be released.

However Politico [2] reports that on Wednesday, a report by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General [3], has issued its report on the emails. It is a scathing indictment, concluding that Clinton failed to comply with US government and State Department policies on records, and that counter to assertions made publicly by her, she never sought permission from the department’s legal staff to use a private server -- a request which if made, the report insists “would not” have been approved. The inspector general’s report states, “At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department's policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act."

It’s not as though Clinton didn’t know what she was doing was wrong and even illegal. The just released report states that technology staff in the State Department’s Office of Information Resource Management, who raised concerns about her private server, were instructed by the department’s director, a Clinton appointee, “not to question the arrangement.” When one staffer mentioned that her private account could contain federal records that needed to be preserved “in order to satisfy federal recordkeeping requirements,” the report says the director of that office “stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by the department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further.” Yet the inspector general says that assertion by the director was false, as there was in fact no evidence that in the State Department’s office of the legal advisor had ever reviewed or approved the private system, or even been asked to do so by Clinton.

Again and again through her four years at State, Clinton is found to have resisted efforts to get her to stop using exclusively her private email to conduct official business. On several occasions, the report says, she expressly said her concern was having her mail subjected to FOIA, or in other words, public discovery. Clinton tried to claim that since her communications with State Dept. personnel ended up on their servers, there were records of her communications there. But as the report notes, that wouldn’t include any State Department-related communications she had with persons outside of the State Department or the government. And those are precisely the kinds of conversations that the public really needs to know about -- particularly when we’re talking about someone who is running for the top position in government, and who has demonstrably spent years with her hand out to powerful people and organizations. After all, it is those communications that would include any discussions of financial transactions involving foreign or domestic interests seeking beneficial assistance from the Madam Secretary.

This scandal is not about someone simply ignoring some arcane rules. As Secretary of State, Clinton had a legal obligation to operate in an above-board, legal and transparent manner in conducting the business of government. Instead, for our years in office, she conducted that business in a manner that can only be called Nixonian, opting to openly violate the rules, to hide her communications from government oversight and public review, to dissemble about her allegedly having received clearance to do so, and even to attempt to erase records from her server when ordered to turn them over. Furthermore, suspicions have to be raised because if Clinton’s concerns were about people accessing her genuinely personal emails, she had only to set up a State Department email address and obtain a State Department secure Blackberry phone, and limit her personal server and personal Blackberry to genuinely personal emails and calls, conducting all State Department business on State Department systems. According to the IGO report, she studiously avoided doing that kind of segregation for four years despite frequent instructions and advice to do so.

Bernie Sanders so far has declined to make an issue of Clinton’s email scandal, but as more information comes out from the Inspector General’s Office, from a FOIA lawsuit currently in the deposition stage in federal court, and ultimately from the ongoing FBI investigation reportedly nearing its conclusion, it is becoming obvious that Sanders is being far too kind to her. When he pooh-poohed the scandal in response to a debate moderator’s question during the first televised public debate he had with Clinton, the scandal was still fairly new. Today, with release of the IGO report, it has become much more serious.

Now that Sanders has agreed to a pre-California-primary televised debate with Donald Trump, following Hillary Clinton’s refusal to honor an earlier agreement to debate him, he will obviously be asked about her email scandal before a riveted national audience. If he doesn’t raise the issue sooner on the campaign trail, Sanders must take that opportunity to denounce her illegal behavior, to question her motives in hiding her communications as secretary of state, and to demand that she come clean by providing copies of all her emails during that period. If it is important for her to release the transcripts of her closed-door and lucrative speeches to Wall Street banks, it is far more so for her to explain why she was conducting State Department business on her private email and trying so hard to avoid Freedom of Information Act scrutiny.

Sanders should start pointing out the obvious reality that should Clinton not come clean, and should she become the Democratic nominee for president this July, she faces the possibility of an embarrassing and damaging final report from the FBI during the election campaign, or perhaps even an indictment, and the certainty of five-months of hammering on the issue by her Republican opponent. Furthermore, if somehow elected, there will follow an inevitable and interminable campaign by Republicans in Congress to try and impeach her for her “high crimes and misdemeanors” committed while serving as Secretary of State in the prior administration. That would make a joke of her campaign slogan: “A president who gets things done.”


Washington's Man Renews Agitprop Campaign on MH-17

More Game-Playing on MH-17?

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

May 24, 2016

A newly posted video showing a glimpse of a Buk missile battery rolling down a highway in eastern Ukraine has sparked a flurry of renewed accusations blaming Russia for the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killing 298 people. But the “dash-cam video” actually adds little to the MH-17 whodunit mystery because it could also support a narrative blaming the Ukrainian military for the disaster.

A screenshot of a Buk convoy, apparently traveling
eastward on highway H-21 in Makiivka, Ukraine,
on July 17, 2014, several hours before Malaysia
Airlines Flight 17 was shot down. (From a YouTube video)

The fleeting image of the missile battery and its accompanying vehicles, presumably containing an armed escort, seems to have been taken by a car heading west on H-21 highway in the town of Makiivka, as the convoy passed by heading east, according to the private intelligence firm Stratfor and the “citizen journalism” Web site, Bellingcat.

However, even assuming that this Buk battery was the one that fired the missile that destroyed MH-17, its location in the video is to the west of both the site where Almaz-Antey, the Russian Buk manufacturer, calculated the missile was fired, around the village of Zaroshchenskoye (then under Ukrainian government control), and the 320-square-kilometer zone where the Dutch Safety Board speculated the fateful rocket originated (covering an area of mixed government and rebel control).

In other words, the question would be where the battery stopped before firing one of its missiles, assuming that this Buk system was the one that fired the missile. (The map below shows the location of Makiivka in red, Almaz-Antey’s suspected launch site in yellow, and the general vicinity of the Dutch Safety Board’s 320-square-kilometer launch zone in green.)

Another curious aspect of this and the other eight or so Internet images of Buk missiles collected by Bellingcat and supposedly showing a Buk battery rumbling around Ukraine on or about July 17, 2014, is that they are all headed east toward Russia, yet there have been no images of Buks heading west from Russia into Ukraine, a logical necessity if the Russians gave a Buk system to ethnic Russian rebels or dispatched one of their own Buk military units directly into Ukraine, suspicions that Russia and the rebels have denied.

The absence of a westward-traveling Buk battery fits with the assessment from Western intelligence agencies that the several operational Buk systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, were under the control of the Ukrainian military, a disclosure contained in a Dutch intelligence report released last October and implicitly confirmed by an earlier U.S. “Government Assessment” that listed weapons systems that Russia had given the rebels but didn’t mention a Buk battery.

The Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet on July 17 belonged to the Ukrainian government. MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014.

MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” capable of downing a plane at that altitude and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country,” whereas the MIVD said the ethnic Russian rebels had only MANPADS that could not reach the higher altitudes.

Ukrainian Offensive

On July 17, the Ukrainian military also was mounting a strong offensive against rebel positions to the north and thus the front lines were shifting rapidly, making it hard to know exactly where the borders of government and rebel control were. To the south, where the Buk missile was believed fired, the battle lines were lightly manned and hazy – because of the concentration of forces to the north – meaning that an armed Buk convoy could probably move somewhat freely. 

 A photograph of a Russian BUK missile system that U.S. 
Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt published on Twitter 
in support of a claim about Russia placing BUK missiles in 
eastern Ukraine, except that the image appears to be an 
AP photo taken at an air show near Moscow two years earlier

Also, because of the offensive, the Ukrainian government feared a full-scale Russian invasion to prevent the annihilation of the rebels, explaining why Kiev was dispatching its Buk systems toward the Russian border, to defend against potential Russian air strikes.

Just a day earlier, a Ukrainian fighter flying along the border was shot down by an air-to-air missile (presumably fired by a Russian warplane), according to last October’s Dutch Safety Board report. So, tensions were high on July 17, 2014, when MH-17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, broke apart over eastern Ukraine, believed downed by a surface-to-air missile although there have been other suggestions that the plane might have been hit by an air-to-air missile.

At the time, Ukraine also was the epicenter of an “information war” that had followed a U.S.-backed coup on Feb. 22, 2014, which ousted democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced the Russian-friendly leader with a fiercely nationalistic and anti-Russian regime in Kiev. The violent coup, in turn, prompted Crimea to vote 96 percent in a hasty referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Eastern Ukraine and its large ethnic Russian population also revolted against the new authorities.

The U.S. government and much of the Western media, however, denied there had been a coup in Kiev, hailed the new regime as “legitimate,” and deemed Crimea’s secession a “Russian invasion.” The West also denounced the eastern Ukrainian resistance as “Russian aggression.” So, the propaganda war was almost as hot as the military fighting, a factor that has further distorted the pursuit of truth about the MH-17 tragedy.

Immediately after the MH-17 crash, the U.S. government sought to pin the blame on Russia as part of a propaganda drive to convince the European Union to join in imposing economic sanctions on Russia for its “annexation” of Crimea and its support of eastern Ukrainians resisting the Kiev regime.

However, a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the analysts could find no evidence that the Russians had supplied the rebels with a sophisticated Buk system or that the Russians had introduced a Buk battery under their own command. The source said the initial intelligence suggested that an undisciplined Ukrainian military team was responsible.

Yet, on July 20, 2014, just three days after the tragedy, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on all Sunday morning talk shows and blamed the Russian-backed rebels and implicitly Moscow. He cited some “social media” comments and – on NBC’s “Meet the Press” – added: “We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”

Two days later, on July 22, the Obama administration released a “Government Assessment” that tried to bolster Kerry’s accusations, in part, by listing the various weapons systems that U.S. intelligence believed Russia had provided the rebels, but a Buk battery was not among them. At background briefings for selected mainstream media reporters, U.S. intelligence analysts struggled to back up the administration’s case against Russia.

For instance, the analysts suggested to a Los Angeles Times reporter that Ukrainian government soldiers manning the suspected Buk battery may have switched to the rebel side before firing the missile. The Times wrote: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [Buk anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”

However, after that July 22 briefing — as U.S. intelligence analysts continued to pore over satellite imagery, telephonic intercepts and other data to refine their understanding of the tragedy — the U.S. government went curiously silent, refusing to make any updates or adjustments to its initial rush to judgment, a silence that has continued ever since.

Staying Silent

Meanwhile, the source who continued receiving briefings from the U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the reason for going quiet was that the more detailed evidence pointed toward a rogue element of the Ukrainian military connected to a hardline Ukrainian oligarch, with the possible motive the shooting down of President Vladimir Putin’s plane returning from a state visit to South America.

In that scenario, a Ukrainian fighter jet in the vicinity (as reported by several eyewitnesses on the ground) was there primarily as a spotter, seeking to identify the target. But Putin’s plane, with similar markings to MH-17, took a more northerly route and landed safely in Moscow.

A side-by-side comparison of the Russian presidential
jetliner and the Malaysia Airlines plane.

Though I was unable to determine whether the source’s analysts represented a dissenting or consensus opinion inside the U.S. intelligence community, some of the now public evidence could fit with that narrative, including why the suspected Buk system was pushing eastward as close to or even into “rebel” territory on July 17.

If Putin was the target, the attackers would need to spread immediate confusion about who was responsible to avoid massive retaliation by Moscow. A perfect cover story would be that Putin’s plane was shot down accidentally by his ethnic Russian allies or even his own troops, the ultimate case of being hoisted on his own petard.

Such a risky operation also would prepare disinformation for release after the attack to create more of a smokescreen and to gain control of the narrative, including planting material on the Internet to be disseminated by friendly or credulous media outlets.

The Ukrainian government has denied having a fighter jet in the air at the time of the MH-17 shoot-down and has denied that any of its Buk or other anti-aircraft systems were involved.

Yet, whatever the truth, U.S. intelligence clearly knows a great deal more than it has been willing to share with the public or even with the Dutch-led investigations. Last October, more than a year after the shoot-down, the Dutch Safety Board was unable to say who was responsible and could only approximate the location of the missile firing inside a 320-square-kilometer area, whereas Kerry had claimed three days after the crash that the U.S. government knew the launch point.

Earlier this year, Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor of the Dutch-led Joint Investigative Team [JIT], provided a partial update to the Dutch family members of MH-17 victims, explaining that he hoped to have a more precise fix on the firing site by the second half of 2016, i.e., possibly more than two years after the tragedy.

Westerbeke’s letter acknowledged that the investigators lacked “primary raw radar images” which could have revealed a missile or a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH-17. That apparently was because Ukrainian authorities had shut down their primary radar facilities supposedly for maintenance, leaving only secondary radar which would show commercial aircraft but not military planes or rockets.

Russian officials have said their radar data suggest that a Ukrainian warplane might have fired on MH-17 with an air-to-air missile, a possibility that is difficult to rule out without examining primary radar which has so far not been available. Primary radar data also might have picked up a ground-fired missile, Westerbeke wrote.

“Raw primary radar data could provide information on the rocket trajectory,” Westerbeke wrote.
“The JIT does not have that information yet. JIT has questioned a member of the Ukrainian air traffic control and a Ukrainian radar specialist. They explained why no primary radar images were saved in Ukraine.”

Westerbeke said investigators are also asking Russia about its data.

Westerbeke added that the JIT had “no video or film of the launch or the trajectory of the rocket.” Nor, he said, do the investigators have satellite photos of the rocket launch.

“The clouds on the part of the day of the downing of MH17 prevented usable pictures of the launch site from being available,” he wrote.
“There are pictures from just before and just after July 17th and they are an asset in the investigation.”

Though Westerbeke provided no details, the Russian military released a number of satellite images purporting to show Ukrainian government Buk missile systems north of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk before the attack, including two batteries that purportedly were shifted 50 kilometers south of Donetsk on July 17, the day of the crash, and then removed by July 18.

Russian Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov called on the Ukrainian government to explain the movements of its Buk systems and why Kiev’s Kupol-M19S18 radars, which coordinate the flight of Buk missiles, showed increased activity leading up to the July 17 shoot-down.

Necessary Secrets?

Part of the reason that the MH-17 mystery has remained unsolved is that the U.S. government insists that its satellite surveillance, which includes infrared detection of heat sources as well as highly precise photographic imagery, remains a “state secret” that cannot be made public.

Secretary of State John Kerry denounces Russia’s
RT network as a “propaganda bullhorn” during remarks
on April 24, 2014.

However, in similar past incidents, the U.S. government has declassified sensitive information. For instance, after a Soviet pilot accidentally shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 over Russian territory in 1983, the Reagan administration revealed the U.S. capability to intercept Soviet ground-to-air military communications in order to make the Soviets look even worse by selectively editing the intercepts to present the destruction of the civilian aircraft as willful.

In that case, too, the U.S. government let its propaganda needs overwhelm any commitment to the truth, as Alvin A. Snyder, who in 1983 was director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division, wrote in his 1995 book, Warriors of Disinformation.

After KAL-007 was shot down, “the Reagan administration’s spin machine began cranking up,” Snyder wrote. “The objective, quite simply, was to heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible. … The American media swallowed the U.S. government line without reservation.”

On Sept. 6, 1983, the Reagan administration went so far as to present a doctored transcript of the intercepts to the United Nations Security Council. “The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” Snyder wrote.

Only a decade later, when Snyder saw the complete transcripts — including the portions that the Reagan administration had excised — would he fully realize how many of the central elements of the U.S. presentation were lies.

Snyder concluded, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.” [For more details on the KAL-007 deception and the history of U.S. trickery, see’s “A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War.”]


Quinn Schansman, a dual U.S.-Dutch citizen killed aboard 
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. 
(Photo from Facebook)

In the MH-17 case, the Obama administration let Kerry present the rush to judgment fingering the Russians and the rebels but then kept all the evidence secret even though the U.S. government’s satellite capabilities are well-known. By refusing to declassify any information for the MH-17 investigation, Washington has succeeded in maintaining the widespread impression that Moscow was responsible for the tragedy without having to prove it.

The source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the Obama administration considered “coming clean” about the MH-17 case in March, when Thomas Schansman, the Dutch father of the only American victim, was pleading for the U.S. government’s cooperation, but administration officials ultimately decided to keep quiet because to do otherwise would have “reversed the narrative.”


A screen shot of the roadway where the suspected 
BUK missile battery supposedly passed after the shoot-down 
of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. 
(Image from Australian “60 Minutes” program)

In the meantime, outfits such as Bellingcat have been free to reinforce the impression of Russian guilt, even as some of those claims have proved false. For instance, Bellingcat directed a news crew from Australia’s “60 Minutes” to a location outside Luhansk (near the Russian border) that the group had identified as the site for the “getaway video” showing a Buk battery with one missile missing.

The “60 Minutes” crew went to the spot and pretended to be at the place shown in the video, but none of the landmarks matched up, which became obvious when screen grabs of the video were placed next to the scene of the Australian crew’s stand-upper. [See’s “Fake Evidence Blaming Russia for MH-17.”]

Correspondent Michael Usher of Australia’s “60 Minutes” 
claims to have found the billboard visible in a video 
of a BUK missile launcher after the shoot-down of 
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. 
(Screen shot from Australia’s “60 Minutes”)

Yet, reflecting the deep-seated mainstream media bias on the MH-17 case, the Australian program reacted angrily to my pointing out the obvious discrepancies. In a follow-up, the show denounced me but could only cite a utility pole in its footage that looked similar to a utility pole in the video.

While it’s true that utility poles tend to look alike, in this case none of the surroundings did, including the placement of the foliage and a house shown in the video that isn’t present in the Australian program’s shot. [For details, see’s “A Reckless Stand-upper on MH-17.”]

But the impact of the nearly two years of one-sided coverage of the MH-17 case in the mainstream Western media has been considerable. In the last few days, a lawyer for the families of Australian victims announced the filing of a lawsuit against Russia and Putin in the European court for human rights seeking compensation of $10 million per passenger. Many of the West’s news articles on the lawsuit assume Russia’s guilt.

In other words, whatever the truth about the MH-17 shoot-down, the tragedy has proven to be worth its weight in propaganda gold against Russia and Putin, even as the U.S. government hides the actual proof that might show exactly who was responsible.

(Research by Assistant Editor Chelsea Gilmour.)

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