Saturday, December 03, 2016

Blind Distrust: Politicizing Justice

Trump Nominee Will Politicize Dept. of Justice

by Walter Brasch  - Wanderings



December 3, 2016

In his successful run to the presidency, Donald Trump spent a lot of time talking about the Second Amendment and defending gun ownership. He spent very little time talking about the other amendments, other than to say he supported the Constitution. He knew his core support came from those who could effortlessly repeat a phrase, “Donald Trump supports my Second Amendment rights,” without knowing much more than that.

There’s probably a reason why Trump wasn’t specific about the other rights—he doesn’t know much about the Constitution. That became apparent this past week when he said he would jail anyone who burned the flag.


image

However, the Supreme Court, in Texas v. Johnson (1989), ruled that burning the flag is protected by the First Amendment right of free speech, no matter how hateful or unpatriotic it may seem. Trump’s tweet was soundly condemned by all media and civil rights organizations.

Trump’s knowledge of the Constitution isn’t as important as his attorney general’s enforcement of Trump’s political beliefs. Most attorney generals have been apolitical; Trump’s nomination may not be.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) will face significant questioning by most Democrats and a few Republican senators during confirmation hearings. Ronald Reagan withdrew his support for Sessions in 1986 after nominating him for a federal judgeship. The nomination had drawn heated opposition by numerous groups , individuals, and four Department of Justice lawyers over Sessions’ history of racially insensitive comments. Among comments that Sessions made was that the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the ACLU, and the National Conference of Churches were un-American.

Sessions says he isn’t a racist. Perhaps that’s accurate, but let’s see what he said in 2014. In an uninformed opinion about the recruitment of not-naturalized immigrants into the military, Sessions stated, “I just think in terms of who’s going to be most likely to be a spy: somebody from Cullman, Alabama, or somebody from Kenya?” Elaborating, he stated,

“We don’t have a difficulty getting American citizens to fill our military slots. That is unbelievable that in a time of high unemployment and we get a lot of calls — ‘Help my son get in the military. He’s been turned down, can he get in?’ So I just think this is not the right thing to do right now.” 

However, an investigation conducted by the Kansas City Star revealed the problem wasn’t that the military was turning down American citizens but that the reduction of ground troops led to increased requirements for recruits and about 80 percent of American citizens who applied were rejected as unfit for service.

“Unfit” also applied to the Klan, which Session says “was OK until I found out they smoked pot.” He claims he was joking. But he wasn’t joking about his opinion of marijuana. In 2016, he incorrectly stated, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Again elaborating on his main theme, the four-term senator said,

“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.” 

He opposes sentence reduction and believes in seizing the assets of those arrested for possession, even before those arrested are convicted, a distinct civil rights violation to the Constitutional guarantee that persons arrested are considered to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

He opposes same-sex marriage, voted against repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and believes that the U.S. should be allowed to torture suspected terrorists.

Sessions was an early supporter of Trump’s proposal to ban immigration of Muslims to the United States. He stated there was no vetting process for Syrian refugees, a claim that wilts in face of the reality that it takes 18 to 24 months of intensive investigation before immigrants are admitted to the U.S.

Sessions also argued against the H-1B provision of the Immigration Act that allows persons who possess significant skills are allowed admission to the U.S. if there are not a sufficient number of Americans to fill those jobs. The H-1B provision has often been used to allow physicians and medical workers into the U.S. In the Senate’s Judicial Committee, Sessions delivered a 30 minute speech about why there needed to be a ban. “Many people are radicalized after they enter,” Sessions stated, again inaccurately, and then claimed,

“How do we screen for that possibility, if we cannot even ask about an applicant’s views on religion? Would we forbid questions about politics? Or theology?” 

However, the Constitution and Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution are specific in stating that there can be no religious test for immigrants—before or after admission to the U.S.

An attorney general has wide latitude on whom he or she prosecutes or doesn’t prosecute, or what terms are acceptable on plea bargains. With Jeff Sessions as attorney general, there is every probability that there will be an overhaul of career staff who are apolitical, of the prosecution of certain crimes at the expense of other crimes, and the refusal to pursue many civil rights violations.

Dr. Brasch is an award-winning social issues/investigative journalist who has covered government and politics for four decades. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D., social issues journalist
latest books:
Fracking America (investigation)
Before the First Snow (historical fiction)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6cC4zHnFAY

www.walterbrasch.com
www.walterbrasch.blogspot.com

Friday, December 02, 2016

A Rogue's Regime: Trump's Felonious Favourites

Too busy getting rich to commit war crimes? Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It? 

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening


December 2, 2016

Donald Trump’s cabinet choices are suggesting a governing philosophy along the lines of a corrupt municipal police force relying on gangsters to help it keep street crime held in check.

Trump has been naming top Wall Street bankers and hedge fund owners to staff his Commerce Department (former Rothschild banker and billionaire Wilbur Ross), Treasury (former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund executive Steve Mnuchin, and more recently, as top “economic strategy advisors”, Blackstone Group CEO Steven Schwartzman and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

The president-elect has actually demonstrated a predilection for considering people who play the "rigged system' and even actual criminals (albeit unindicted in some cases) in his cabinet and White House advisory staff. Dimon, of course, heads a too-big-to-fail bank that was one of five that pleaded guilty last year to federal felony charges involving a huge currency manipulation conspiracy. Dimon had his bank cop a plea and pay a $5.6-billion fine that allowed him to avoid facing criminal charges himself for the bank’s admitted criminal behavior and even to stay on in his lucrative top spot running the felonious institution.

Meanwhile, Trump is reportedly considering naming disgraced former General David Petraeus, who in 2015 also copped a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of “mishandling top-secret information” while he was CIA director (a post he had to resign), in order to avoid more serious felony charges of providing such national security secrets to his paramour and biographer Paula Broadwell, and of potentially of lying about it to FBI investigators, also a felony. Petraeus, who did not have to do jail time under the plea deal, is still on two-year’s probation through April 23, 2017 though, and if appointed to a cabinet post by Trump would have to report his new job to his probation officer, and also obtain advance permission for any work-related travel until that date -- a historic first for a top government appointee.

Either that or Trump, once inaugurated President, would have to pardon Petraeus before appointing him. Could the idea of putting the gangsters in charge of national economic and foreign policy and economic regulation in order to fix what Trump calls a “rigged system” work as a governing philosophy?

I guess you’d have to ask how well having a crooked, mob-linked police force in New York, Philadelphia, Boston or Chicago worked in years past at keeping crime in check in those cities. The evidence is not particularly good, I would suggest, having lived in several of those venues.

We should also note that Trump’s idea of appointing top Wall Street weasels to key cabinet posts involved in regulating the economy is hardly unique to him. We can be sure that had the recent election been won by Hillary Clinton, who raked in millions of dollars both in personal gifts (excuse me: speaking “fees”) and in campaign contributions and donations to her family “charity” both before and during the campaign, would have also placed top bankers and capitalists in key cabinet posts, just as Presidents Obama, Bush II and Bill Clinton did in their presidencies.


David Petraeus and Jamie Dimon, both felony prosecution dodgers
and Trump White House appointment prospects

That said, Trump’s choices seem particularly egregious in terms of the visuals, particularly in the cases of Dimon and potential appointee Petraeus.

Then again Trump himself has been good at skating around potential prosecution, as witness his personal “charitable” foundation’s settlement of a charge of self-dealing, and of a fraud case involving his so-called Trump “University,” as well as various other shady deals during his decades of building an allegedly billion-dollar real estate empire through creative use of the bankruptcy and tax laws.

Looking on the bright side, as Alexander Cockburn, co-founder with Jeff St. Clair of the magazine Counterpunch, once argued [1] in defense of an article I had written for that publication comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, “All US presidents (with the possible exception of Warren Harding) have shared the Fuhrer’s “enthusiasm for mass murder.” Alex claimed that Harding was exempted from the charge because “he was too busy lining his pockets to engage in war crimes.”

Perhaps that could turn out to be the story with the incoming Trump presidency: Maybe we’ll get a president and a cabinet so infected with the greed bug that they’ll devote their time and use their power to enrich themselves and their friends, and spare the world the murderous policies of their predecessors.


Links: [1] http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/01/10/bush-as-hitler-let-s-be-fair/

A War Against Incredulity: "Fake News" Furore Phony Attempt to Silence Journalism

The Orwellian War on Skepticism

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News


December 1, 2016

Under the cover of battling “fake news,” the mainstream U.S. news media and officialdom are taking aim at journalistic skepticism when it is directed at the pronouncements of the U.S. government and its allies.

One might have hoped that the alarm about “fake news” would remind major U.S. news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, about the value of journalistic skepticism. However, instead, it seems to have done the opposite.

The idea of questioning the claims by the West’s officialdom now brings calumny down upon the heads of those who dare do it.


Author George Orwell

“Truth” is being redefined as whatever the U.S. government, NATO and other Western interests say is true. Disagreement with the West’s “group thinks,” no matter how fact-based the dissent is, becomes “fake news.”

Special Report: Official Washington’s rush into an Orwellian future is well underway as political and media bigwigs move to silence Internet voices of independence and dissent, reports Robert Parry.



So, we have the case of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius having a starry-eyed interview with Richard Stengel, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, the principal arm of U.S. government propaganda.

Entitled “The truth is losing,” the column laments that the official narratives as deigned by the State Department and The Washington Post are losing traction with Americans and the world’s public.

Stengel, a former managing editor at Time magazine, seems to take aim at Russia’s RT network’s slogan, “question more,” as some sinister message seeking to inject cynicism toward the West’s official narratives.

“They’re not trying to say that their version of events is the true one. They’re saying: ‘Everybody’s lying! Nobody’s telling you the truth!’,” Stengel said.

“They don’t have a candidate, per se. But they want to undermine faith in democracy, faith in the West.”

No Evidence


Typical of these recent mainstream tirades about this vague Russian menace, Ignatius’s column doesn’t provide any specifics regarding how RT and other Russian media outlets are carrying out this assault on the purity of Western information. It’s enough to just toss around pejorative phrases supporting an Orwellian solution, which is to stamp out or marginalize alternative and independent journalism, not just Russian.



Washington Post columnist David Ignatius
(Photo credit: Aude)

Ignatius writes: “Stengel poses an urgent question for journalists, technologists and, more broadly, everyone living in free societies or aspiring to do so. How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

“Stengel argues that the U.S. government should sometimes protect citizens by exposing ‘weaponized information, false information’ that is polluting the ecosystem. But ultimately, the defense of truth must be independent of a government that many people mistrust. ‘There are inherent dangers in having the government be the verifier of last resort,’ he argues.”

By the way, Stengel is not the fount of truth-telling, as he and Ignatius like to pretend. Early in the Ukraine crisis, Stengel delivered a rant against RT that was full of inaccuracies or what you might call “fake news.”

Yet, what Stengel and various mainstream media outlets appear to be arguing for is the creation of a “Ministry of Truth” managed by mainstream U.S. media outlets and enforced by Google, Facebook and other technology platforms.

In other words, once these supposedly responsible outlets decide what the “truth” is, then questioning that narrative will earn you “virtual” expulsion from the marketplace of ideas, possibly eliminated via algorithms of major search engines or marked with a special app to warn readers not to believe what you say, a sort of yellow Star of David for the Internet age.

And then there’s the possibility of more direct (and old-fashioned) government enforcement by launching FBI investigations into media outlets that won’t toe the official line. (All of these “solutions” have been advocated in recent weeks.)

On the other hand, if you do toe the official line that comes from Stengel’s public diplomacy shop, you stand to get rewarded with government financial support. Stengel disclosed in his interview with Ignatius that his office funds “investigative” journalism projects.

“How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth?” Ignatius asks, adding:

“Stengel has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers.”

Buying Propaganda


After reading Ignatius’s column on Wednesday, I submitted a question to the State Department asking for details on this “journalism” and “truth-telling” funding that is coming from the U.S. government’s top propaganda shop, but I have not received an answer.



The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo: Washington Post)

But we do know that the U.S. government has been investing tens of millions of dollars in various media programs to undergird Washington’s desired narratives.

For instance, in May 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”

USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the 2014 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian and U.S.-backed regime, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” skills that would have been quite helpful to the coup plotters.

USAID, working with currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society, also has funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.

Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what appeared to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.

Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Higgins is now associated with the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank which is partially funded by the U.S. State Department.

Beyond funding from the State Department and USAID, tens of millions of dollars more are flowing through the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was started in 1983 under the guiding hand of CIA Director William Casey.

NED became a slush fund to help finance what became known, inside the Reagan administration, as “perception management,” the art of controlling the perceptions of domestic and foreign populations.

The Emergence of StratCom


Last year, as the New Cold War heated up, NATO created the Strategic Communications Command in Latvia to further wage information warfare against Russia and individuals who were contesting the West’s narratives.



NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

As veteran war correspondent Don North reported in 2015 regarding this new StratCom, “the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’

“This attitude has led to treating psy-ops — manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions — as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.”

Now, the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress are moving to up the ante, passing new legislation to escalate “information warfare.”

On Wednesday, U.S. congressional negotiators approved $160 million to combat what they deem foreign propaganda and the alleged Russian campaign to spread “fake news.” The measure is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and gives the State Department the power to identify “propaganda” and counter it.

This bipartisan stampede into an Orwellian future for the American people and the world’s population follows a shoddily sourced Washington Post article that relied on a new anonymous group that identified some 200 Internet sites, including some of the most prominent American independent sources of news, as part of a Russian propaganda network.

Typical of this new McCarthyism, the report lacked evidence that any such network actually exists but instead targeted cases where American journalists expressed skepticism about claims from Western officialdom.

Consortiumnews.com was included on the list apparently because we have critically analyzed some of the claims and allegations regarding the crises in Syria and Ukraine, rather than simply accept the dominant Western “group thinks.”

Also on the “black list” were such quality journalism sites as Counterpunch, Truth-out, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and ZeroHedge along with many political sites ranging across the ideological spectrum.

The Fake-News Express


Normally such an unfounded conspiracy theory would be ignored, but – because The Washington Post treated the incredible allegations as credible – the smear has taken on a life of its own, reprised by cable networks and republished by major newspapers.



MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews

But the unpleasant truth is that the mainstream U.S. news media is now engaged in its own fake-news campaign about “fake news.” It’s publishing bogus claims invented by a disreputable and secretive outfit that just recently popped up on the Internet. If that isn’t “fake news,” I don’t know what is.

Yet, despite the Post’s clear violations of normal journalistic practices, surely, no one there will pay a price, anymore than there was accountability for the Post reporting as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003. Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor most responsible for that catastrophic “group think,” is still in the same job today.

Two nights ago, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews featured the spurious Washington Post article in a segment that – like similar rehashes –didn’t bother to get responses from the journalists being slandered.

I found that ironic since Matthews repeatedly scolds journalists for their failure to look skeptically at U.S. government claims about Iraq possessing WMD as justification for the disastrous Iraq War. However, now Matthews joins in smearing journalists who have applied skepticism to U.S. and Western propaganda claims about Syria and/or Ukraine.

While the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament begin to take action to shut down or isolate dissident sources of information – all in the name of “democracy” – a potentially greater danger is that mainstream U.S. news outlets are already teaming up with technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to impose their own determinations about “truth” on the Internet.

Or, as Ignatius puts it in his column reflecting Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Stengel’s thinking, “The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms.

“‘They see this information war as an existential threat,’ says Stengel. … The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps ‘machine learning‘ [presumably a reference to algorithms] can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a ‘global ombudsman for information.’”

Ministry of Truth


An organization of some 30 mainstream media companies already exists, including not only The Washington Post and The New York Times but also the Atlantic Council-connected Bellingcat, as the emerging arbiters – or ombudsmen – for truth, something Orwell described less flatteringly as a “Ministry of Truth.”



Big Brother poster illustrating George Orwell’s novel about modern propaganda, 1984.

The New York Times has even editorialized in support of Internet censorship, using the hysteria over “fake news” to justify the marginalization or disappearance of dissident news sites.

It now appears that this 1984-ish “MiniTrue” will especially target journalistic skepticism when applied to U.S. government and mainstream media “group thinks.”

Yet, in my four decades-plus in professional journalism, I always understood that skepticism was a universal journalistic principle, one that should be applied in all cases, whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House or whether some foreign leader is popular or demonized.

As we have seen in recent years, failure to ask tough questions and to challenge dubious claims from government officials and mainstream media outlets can get lots of people killed, both U.S. soldiers and citizens of countries invaded or destabilized by outsiders.

To show skepticism is not the threat to democracy that Undersecretary Stengel and columnist Ignatius appear to think it is.

Whether you like or dislike RT’s broadcasts – or more likely have never seen one – a journalist really can’t question its slogan: “question more.” Questioning is the essence of journalism and, for that matter, democracy.

[In protest of the Post’s smearing of independent journalists, RootsAction has undertaken a petition drive, which can be found here.]

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

This Land's Not Your Land: Trudeau Deal Gifts West to the Far East

Justin Trudeau: BC is not yours to give away

by Rafe Mair - Common Sense Canadian


December 1, 2016

I’ll not waste too many words on Prime Minister Trudeau’s treachery. Of all the many political sins, surely the greatest of all is hypocrisy and this prime minister has taken that sin to new levels.

Justin Trudeau speaks at the Paris COP climate talks – flanked by Canadian premiers (Province of BC/Flickr)


“They hang the man, and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from off the common;
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose.”


May takes a stand


He basked in the glory of Paris and being portrayed as the hero of the earth but had scarcely got home when he cast aside the cloak of righteousness, reverting to being a cheap hustler for the fossil fuel industry, even outshining Stephen Harper.

The consequences that would flow from Kinder Morgan’s pipeline would be a monumental contribution to global warming and killing the earth’s atmosphere but he’s consoled by the fact that the fossil fuel industry loves him and with their captive pseudo-journalists are falling all over themselves in support. I can’t help but comment on Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail, who criticizes Elizabeth May because she’s said she’ll go to jail if necessary in protest of the Kinder Morgan line. Mason, the sneer undisguised, quips, “Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has already said she is willing to go to jail over Kinder Morgan. Less clear is what good she thinks she can do behind bars.”

Gary Mason knows the answer to that full well and fears it because it would do one hell of a lot of good. There’s not a public figure in BC who could rally people against Kinder Morgan in a more effective way then she. Elizabeth May behind bars would be Kinder Morgan’s all-time, number one nightmare – not to mention a political horror story for the Liberals and the Tories. She has that commodity the media has abandoned – credibility.

From Brexit to Trump


Ms. May, along with other leaders of this fight like Grand Chief Stewart Philip, head of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, understands something that Trudeau chooses to ignore: There’s been a sea change in politics in this world. The enemy is no longer the other political parties but the elite, regardless of individual political persuasion. Brewing for a decade, it recently manifested itself in the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. No one needs to explain this to Ms. May or Grand Chief Philip and I’ve neither the time nor the inclination to explain it to Trudeau.

Not long ago I said this about the Brexit result and in predicting Trump’s victory:
The media and pollsters have been caught out making outdated assumptions and asking irrelevant questions. They’re looking at this contest through the prism of elections past and are still declaring their choice of issues and missing the main one.

It’s an entirely new ballgame and I refer back to articles I’ve done here and elsewhere saying that society as we have come to know it is mortally wounded …

The accepted media wisdom, an oxymoron if there ever was one, is that mostly kooks voted for Trump. In fact, interview after interview discloses the underlying reason was deep anger with what the Anglican Book of Prayer so neatly calls “those set in authority over us”.

The phenomenon is not Donald Trump but a worldwide movement of ordinary people who are angry. Whoever looked less elite was going to win.

Tired of being lied to


Who are these angry people?

Not the poor and disadvantaged, although they are part of it; not the traditional left, many of whom are unwelcome. These are people pissed off at the entrenched wealthy, the elite, who have the power to do as they wish. Mr. Trudeau, your ilk, sir!

What was the cause? The catalyst?

Clearly, it was pollution, a phenomenon that showed the elite to be incompetent, serial liars who, since the start of the industrial revolution, had assured the public that no harm came from gunk emitted from smokestacks even though cities like London were blackened by these emissions.

The denouement began with Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring. It was just a matter of time before people realized they had been, and were being lied to. For the first time, the need to regulate industry in order to protect the environment became widely accepted, and modern environmentalism was born.

Industry and politicians went into denial. Tobacco smoke, hitherto claimed harmless, was proved to kill both smokers and innocent bystanders, yet the companies fought every inch of the way like cornered rats. The chemical companies went into full denial, even though companies like Union Carbide became massive killers.

The list seemed endless and the evidence piled, up but the elite kept on lying and hiring pliable scientists and clever PR specialists. Governments were willing accomplices and, every day, the elite lost credibility, yet clung to their denial.

Then, in a different but related area of public health, there was that kook Ralph Nader, denying the wonders of America’s icon, the automobile and its ever-increasing safety features, in his 1965 book Unsafe At Any Speed. Suddenly, the courts demonstrated that Nader had been right all along. Jesus! Was there nothing sacred?

More valuable than money


Prime Minister, we’ve come to the crux of the matter.

It has dawned on people that the elite have only one standard of judging value – money – and that they would risk destroying the earth to make it.

More and more, people see that there’s real, tangible value to water, more than just making electricity and slaking our thirst. What, they asked, if it does no more than be beautiful in its untouched state? Can it be said that water is only valuable when destroyed for a dam?

Trees have a dollar value when they become lumber and paper. What about the life they harbour and perpetuate? Is an uncut forest not valuable in itself? Do we have to destroy it before it’s an asset?

Environmentalism went from being semi-admirable Kookism practiced by, you know, those sorts of people, to the respectable, then became mainstream, moving into the realm of the sacred.

Unholy catechism


No one believes developers or governments any more, not even Prime Ministers. Projects that once would scarcely cause a ripple of adverse reaction became hugely controversial and it was no longer just the “usual suspects” picketing and demonstrating against those in authority. Suddenly “Jack was as good as his master”, perhaps better. The elite, the “higher purpose persons”, have their knickers in a knot, unable to comprehend what’s going on or why. Lying, bribery and blatant hypocrisy constitute the only catechism they understand.

You are in denial, sir, because you can’t think of anything except business as usual, always hoping this all goes away.

“National Interest”


Let’s move into contemporary British Columbia.

You tell us, Mr. Trudeau, that our environment and way of life is subject to what you say is in “the national interest” – whether we like it or not. Money counts, especially oil money. Your political commitments, not to say bribes, are paramount.

We must accept that pipelines carrying deadly bitumen go through virgin forest where spills can’t be reached or, more likely, there’s nothing to be done anyway. You glibly dismiss the horrible, ongoing risks of tanker traffic – plain statistics tell us what will happen.

We’re told we must, in the interests of the “nation”, put our rivers, inlets, shorelines, fjords, public safety and unbeatable environment at risk to enhance the interests of others.

Why, Prime Minister? Please spell out this national interest. Don’t you really mean the interests of the Liberal party in Alberta? The political survival of premier Notley? Don’t you mean really the masses of investment capital which hasn’t a soup├žon of social conscience?

I would never hold this against them Mr. Trudeau but I remember so well going to first ministers conferences on the patriation of the constitution and watching Alberta oppose equalization for poor provinces, lecturing them that if they only managed their affairs as Alberta did, they would be fine. That these provinces had no resources and Alberta was sitting on all that oil didn’t seem to count. It seems as if shoes have changed feet in this country.

Rights and Wrongs


Let me ask you a niggling question: Are Property and Civil Rights not a provincial right under our Constitution?

Attitudes have changed, Mr. Trudeau, and people all over the world now believe that those things that you cheerfully donate to your corporate friends don’t belong to you or the government but to all of the people.

Yes, you have the legal right to give them all away but that’s because our political system is a couple of centuries out of date and reposes in your office dictatorial powers while you pretend to run a democracy. You know, as does anyone who thinks about it, that MPs, particularly in the governing party, have absolutely no power and are just expensive cyphers whose main job is to make sure that pension checks are mailed on time.

Let me put it perhaps more bluntly, Mr. Trudeau: We in British Columbia – and especially First Nations whose unceded territories are at stake – regard those mountains as ours, the rivers are ours, trees are ours; so are the oceans, the beaches, the coastlines, the lakes and on it goes. Your right to steal them from us and give them to oil companies only rests upon a political system that, frankly, stinks.

BC doesn’t belong to you


If that was just the position of one ageing pol living in Lions Bay, British Columbia, you would be able to rest easy. What I’m trying to make you understand, sir, is that the ever-increasing masses of people all over the world are fed to the teeth with a phoney political system that takes away from people what is theirs and gives it to greedy supporters of politicians in power.

In short, British Columbians regard all of our forests, rivers, coastlines, as having enormous value to us simply as they are – not in their exploitation but their existence. This is where we live. our home, our legacy.

Why can’t you understand that, Prime Minister?

You, the hero of the Paris conference, ask us to sacrifice our home so that the Tar Sands, the world’s biggest polluter, can spew its poisons full time again? Why are you telling us, Mr. Trudeau, that we must pledge what God gave us to the tender mercies of the fossil fuel industry?

Sir, we aren’t fools. We’ve seen how your lot cares about BC. When we hear soothing words from industry and the federal government about how they will treat our assets with care and respect, we think of our sacred salmon, which has been at the mercy of industry and the federal government – a government flooding our waters with diseased foreign fish to this day – ever since Confederation.

You are dead wrong, sir, letting hubris overcome common sense and you’re clearly spoiling for a fight.

If that’s what you truly want, you shall have it.

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.
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Thursday, December 01, 2016

"What Could Go Wrong?" A New Cold War Report

What can go wrong?

by William Blum – The Anti-Empire Report #147 


November 30th, 2016

That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant.

That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant.

That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant.

What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia. His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of US regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

Even more so is his appointment of General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Flynn dined last year in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT (Russia Today), the Russian state’s English-language, leftist-leaning TV channel. Flynn now carries the stigma in the American media as an individual who does not see Russia or Putin as the devil. It is truly remarkable how nonchalantly American journalists can look upon the possibility of a war with Russia, even a nuclear war.

(I can now expect a barrage of emails from my excessively politically-correct readers about Flynn’s alleged anti-Islam side. But that, even if true, is irrelevant to this discussion of avoiding a war with Russia.)

I think American influence under Trump could also inspire a solution to the bloody Russia-Ukraine crisis, which is the result of the US overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to further advance the US/NATO surrounding of Russia; after which he could end the US-imposed sanctions against Russia, which hardly anyone in Europe benefits from or wants; and then – finally! – an end to the embargo against Cuba. What a day for celebration that will be! Too bad that Fidel won’t be around to enjoy it.

We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton would do this, but I think there’s at least a chance with the Donald. And those three heroes may now enjoy feeling at least a modicum of hope. Picture a meeting of them all together on some future marvelous day with you watching it on a video.

Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam because of any fear of being called anti-Islam. He’s repulsed enough by ISIS to want to destroy them, something that can’t always be said about Mr. Obama.

International trade deals, written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of their bosses, with little concern about the rest of us, may have rougher sailing in the Trump White House than is usually the case with such deals.

The mainstream critics of Trump foreign policy should be embarrassed, even humbled, by what they supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Instead, what bothers them about the president-elect is his lack of desire to make the rest of the world in America’s image. He appears rather to be more concerned with the world not making America in its image.

In the latest chapter of Alice in Trumpland he now says that he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton, that he has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he had vowed to withdraw the United States, and that he’s no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea. So whatever fears you may have about certain of his expressed weird policies … just wait … they may fall by the wayside just as easily; although I still think that on a personal level he’s a [two-syllable word: first syllable is a synonym for a donkey; second syllable means “an opening”]

Trump’s apparently deep-seated need for approval may continue to succumb poorly to widespread criticism and protests. Poor little Donald … so powerful … yet so vulnerable.

The Trump dilemma, as well as the whole Hillary Clinton mess, could have probably been avoided if Bernie Sanders had been nominated. That large historical “if” is almost on a par with the Democrats choosing Harry Truman to replace Henry Wallace in 1944 as the ailing Roosevelt’s vice-president. Truman brought us a charming little thing called the Cold War, which in turn gave us McCarthyism. But Wallace, like Sanders, was just a little too damn leftist for the refined Democratic Party bosses.
State-owned media: The good, the bad, and the ugly

On November 16, at a State Department press briefing, department spokesperson John Kirby was having one of his frequent adversarial dialogues with Gayane Chichakyan, a reporter for RT (Russia Today); this time concerning US charges of Russia bombing hospitals in Syria and blocking the UN from delivering aid to the trapped population. When Chichakyan asked for some detail about these charges, Kirby replied: “Why don’t you ask your defense ministry?”

GK: Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

GK: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government?

KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.



MATTHEW LEE (Associated Press): Let me –- hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of us are, so it’s -– she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned -– from a state-owned –

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

LEE: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

……

KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

One has to wonder if State Department spokesperson Kirby knows that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about RT, declared: “The Russians have opened an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive.”

I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the UK, broadcasting in the US and all around the world.

Or the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described by Wikipedia as follows: “The corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas … and is well regarded for quality and reliability as well as for offering educational and cultural programming that the commercial sector would be unlikely to supply on its own.”

There’s also Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Radio Liberty (Central/Eastern Europe), and Radio Marti (Cuba); all (US) state-owned, none “independent”, but all deemed worthy enough by the United States to feed to the world.

And let’s not forget what Americans have at home: PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio), which would have a near-impossible time surviving without large federal government grants. How independent does this leave them? Has either broadcaster ever unequivocally opposed a modern American war? There’s good reason NPR has long been known as National Pentagon Radio. But it’s part of American media’s ideology to pretend that it doesn’t have any ideology.

As to the non-state American media … There are about 1400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam while they were happening, or shortly thereafter? Or even opposed to any two of these seven wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe (February 18, 1968) surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”. Has the phrase “invasion of Vietnam” ever appeared in the US mainstream media?

In 2003, leading cable station MSNBC took the much-admired Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq. Mr. Kirby would undoubtedly call MSNBC “independent”.

If the American mainstream media were officially state-controlled, would they look or sound significantly different when it comes to US foreign policy? 

Soviet observation: “The only difference between your propaganda and our propaganda is that you believe yours.” 


On November 25, the Washington Post ran an article entitled: “Research ties ‘fake news’ to Russia.” It’s all about how sources in Russia are flooding American media and the Internet with phoney stories designed as “part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders”.


“The sophistication of the Russian tactics,” the article says, “may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on ‘fake news’.”

The Post states that the Russian tactics included “penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.” (Heretofore this had been credited to Wikileaks.)

The story is simply bursting with anti-Russian references:

An online magazine header – “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”
“the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”

“more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”

“stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”

“The Russian campaign during this election season … worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with ‘buzzy’ content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.”

“Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience”

“They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”

“Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the ‘Brexit’ departure of Britain from the European Union.”

“Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports.”

“a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia”

A former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is quoted saying he was “struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.” McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics. “They don’t try to win the argument. It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.” [Cynicism? Heavens! What will those Moscow fascists/communists think of next?]

The Post did, however, include the following: “RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election.” RT was quoted: “It is the height of irony that an article about ‘fake news’ is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insinuations that the network has originated even a single ‘fake story’ related to the US election.”

It must be noted that the Washington Post article fails to provide a single example showing how the actual facts of a specific news event were rewritten or distorted by a Russian agency to produce a news event with a contrary political message. What then lies behind such blatant anti-Russian propaganda? In the new Cold War such a question requires no answer. The new Cold War by definition exists to discredit Russia simply because it stands in the way of American world domination. In the new Cold War the political spectrum in the mainstream media runs the gamut from A to B. 

Cuba, Fidel, Socialism … Hasta la victoria siempre!


The most frequent comment I’ve read in the mainstream media concerning Fidel Castro’s death is that he was a “dictator”; almost every heading bore that word. Since the 1959 revolution, the American mainstream media has routinely referred to Cuba as a dictatorship. But just what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is (see the preceding essays), if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries. The Cuban president is chosen by the parliament, The National Assembly of People’s Power. Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since all candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have private corporations to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. Did we need the latest example of this travesty of democracy to convince us to finally get rid of it? If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba a dictatorship because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement of five years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.


Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to williamblum.org is provided.


← Issue #146

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, James Carden, Joan Russow, Janine Bandcroft November 30, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


November 30, 2016

Nearly two weeks ago, America's House of Representatives passed H.R.5732, or the "Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016". Slipped through an almost empty House, using "special" rules that limited normal democratic checks and balances, H.R.5732 promises to be, if it gets past the Senate and is ratified by the next president of the United States, the opening of a gate to broaden the Syria conflagration in the Middle East and perhaps lead to wars beyond there too.

Listen. Hear.

James Carden is a contributing writer at The Nation whose recent article there, 'The Dangerous and Shortsighted Push to "Contain Iran"' outlines what could prove to be president Trump's first foreign policy crisis. James also serves as editor of eastwestaccord.com, the website for The American Committee for East-West Accord.

James Carden in the first half.


And; you may recall Bill C-51? That was the odious effort of our previous and unlamentedly passed prime minister to create, in emulation of our neighbours south, a Made in Canada Patriot Act. During last year's federal election, the NDP said C-51 should be scrapped, while the Liberals thought a bit of tinkering would do the trick. Right now, the Liberal's Public Safety Review on Bill C-51 is ready to retire to the capital to present submissions, BUT you still have two more weeks to get your opinions registered.

Joan Russow is former leader of the Green Party of Canada who, since stepping down from the Greens, has spent her time keeping the United Nations' feet to fire with the Global Compliance Research Project, worked as reporter and filmmaker recording climate change conferences in Copenhagen and Cancun, and producing the film, 'Cooperatives: Counterpoint to Capitalism.' She also serves as an editor and the driving force behind the Peace, Earth, and Justice news site, PEJNews.com.

Joan Russow and C-51 in the second half.


And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us news of some of the good goings on planned in the coming week for the streets of our town and further afield. But first, James Carden and the Caesar Syria Civil Protection Act 2016, "Dangerous and Shortsighted Push to ‘Contain Iran.’"

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

Caesar's Ghost: Spectre of a Photo Fraud Returns to Stoke Syria Fires

The Caesar Photo Fraud that Undermined Syrian Negotiations

by Rick Sterling  - CounterPunch


March 4, 2016

A 30 page investigative report on the “Caesar Torture Photos” has been released and is available online here. The following is a condensed version of the report. Readers who are especially interested are advised to get the full report which includes additional details, photographs, sources and recommendations.

[In mid-November a "special session with rules suspended" convening of the House of Representatives slid a Bill through a near empty house that could lead to broader war in Iraq and a possible confrontation with both Iraq and Russia. The bipartisan, Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016 effort was sponsored by Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), and supported by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA). Below is Rick Sterling's review of the eponymous figure in the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016, something The Nation's James Carden calls 'The Dangerous and Shortsighted Push to Contain Iran'. Sterling recaps the ongoing propaganda campaign, as witnessed in the photo above, to expand not only America's involvement in the Syria disaster, but to threaten Iran and Russia as well. - Gorilla Radio Blog.]

Introduction


There is a pattern of sensational but untrue reports that lead to public acceptance of US and Western military intervention in countries around the world:

* In Gulf War 1, there were reports of Iraqi troops stealing incubators from Kuwait, leaving babies to die on the cold floor. Relying on the testimony of a Red Crescent doctor, Amnesty Interenational ‘verified’ the false claims.

* Ten years later, there were reports of yellow cake uranium going to Iraq for development of weapons of mass destruction.

* One decade later, there were reports of Libyan soldiers drugged on viagra and raping women as they advanced.

* In 2012, NBC broadcaster Richard Engel was supposedly kidnapped by pro-Assad Syrian militia but luckily freed by Syrian opposition fighters, the “Free Syrian Army”.

All these reports were later confirmed to be fabrications and lies. They all had the goal of manipulating public opinion and they all succeeded in one way or another. Despite the consequences, which were often disastrous, none of the perpetrators were punished or paid any price.

It has been famously said “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” This report is a critical review of the “Caesar Torture Photos” story. As will be shown, there is strong evidence the accusations are entirely or substantially false.

Overview of ‘Caesar Torture Photos’


On 20 January 2014, two days before negotiations about the Syrian conflict were scheduled to begin in Switzerland, a sensational report burst onto television and front pages around the world. The story was that a former Syrian army photographer had 55,000 photographs documenting the torture and killing of 11,000 detainees by the Syrian security establishment.

The Syrian photographer was given the code-name ‘Caesar’. The story became known as the “Caesar Torture Photos”. A team of lawyers plus digital and forensic experts were hired by the Carter-Ruck law firm, on contract to Qatar, to go to the Middle East and check the veracity of “Caesar” and his story. They concluded that “Caesar” was truthful and the photographs indicated “industrial scale killing”. CNN, London’s Guardian and LeMonde broke the story which was subsequently broadcast in news reports around the world. The Caesar photo accusations were announced as negotiations began in Switzerland. With the opposition demanding the resignation of the Syrian government, negotiations quickly broke down.

For the past two years the story has been preserved with occasional bursts of publicity and supposedly corroborating reports. Most recently, in December 2015 Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report titled “If the Dead Could Speak” with significant focus on the Caesar accusations.

Following are 12 significant problems with the ‘Caesar torture photos’ story.

Almost half the photos show the opposite of the allegations.


The Carter Ruck Inquiry Team claimed there were about 55,000 photos total with about half of them taken by ‘Caesar’ and the other half by other photographers. The Carter Ruck team claimed the photos were all ‘similar’. Together they are all known as ‘Caesar’s Torture Photos’.

The photographs are in the custody of an opposition organization called the Syrian Association for Missing and Conscience Detainees (SAFMCD). In 2015, they allowed Human Rights Watch (HRW) to study all the photographs which have otherwise been secret. In December 2015, HRW released their report titled “If the Dead Could Speak”. The biggest revelation is that over 46% of the photographs (24,568) do not show people ‘tortured to death” by the Syrian government. On the contrary, they show dead Syrian soldiers and victims of car bombs and other violence (HRW pp2-3). Thus, nearly half the photos show the opposite of what was alleged. These photos, never revealed to the public, confirm that the opposition is violent and has killed large numbers of Syrian security forces and civilians.

The claim that other photos only show ‘tortured detainees’ is exaggerated or false.


The Carter Ruck report says ‘Caesar’ only photographed bodies brought from Syrian government detention centers. In their December 2015 report, HRW said, “ The largest category of photographs, 28,707 images, are photographs Human Rights Watch understands to have died in government custody, either in one of several detention facilities or after being transferred to a military hospital.” They estimate 6,786 dead individuals in the set.

The photos and the deceased are real, but how they died and the circumstances are unclear. There is strong evidence some died in conflict. Others died in the hospital. Others died and their bodies were decomposing before they were picked up. These photographs seem to document a war time situation where many combatants and civilians are killed. It seems the military hospital was doing what it had always done: maintaining a photographic and documentary record of the deceased. Bodies were picked up by different military or intelligence branches. While some may have died in detention; the big majority probably died in the conflict zones. The accusations by ‘Caesar’, the Carter Ruck report and HRW that these are all victims of “death in detention” or “death by torture” or death in ‘government custody” are almost certainly false.

The true identity of “Caesar” is probably not as claimed.


The Carter Ruck Report says “This witness who defected from Syria and who had been working for the Syrian government was given the code-name ‘Caesar’ by the inquiry team to protect the witness and members of his family.” (CRR p12) However if his story is true, it would be easy for the Syrian government to determine who he really is. After all, how many military photographers took photos at Tishreen and Military 601 Hospitals during those years and then disappeared? According to the Carter Ruck report, Caesar’s family left Syria around the same time. Considering this, why is “Caesar” keeping his identity secret from the western audience? Why does “Caesar” refuse to meet even with highly sympathetic journalists or researchers?

The fact that 46% of the total photographic set is substantially the opposite of what was claimed indicates two possibilities:


* Caesar and his promoters knew the contents but lied about them expecting nobody to look.

* Caesar and his promoters did not know the contents and falsely assumed they were like the others.

The latter seems more likely which supports the theory that Caesar is not who he claims to be.

The Carter Ruck Inquiry was faulty, rushed and politically biased.


The credibility of the “Caesar” story has been substantially based on the Carter-Ruck Inquiry Team which “verified” the defecting photographer and his photographs. The following facts suggest the team was biased with a political motive:

* the investigation was financed by the government of Qatar which is a major supporter of the armed opposition.

* the contracted law firm, Carter Ruck and Co, has previously represented Turkey’s President Erdogan, also known for his avid support of the armed opposition.

* the American on the legal inquiry team, Prof David M. Crane, has a long history working for U.S. Dept of Defense and Defense Intelligence Agency. The U.S. Government has been deeply involved in the attempt at ‘regime change’ with demands that ‘Assad must go’ beginning in summer 2011 and continuing until recently.

* Prof Crane is personally partisan in the conflict. He has campaigned for a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal and testified before Congress in October 2013, three months before the Caesar revelations.

* by their own admission, the inquiry team was under “time constraints” (CRR, p11).

* by their own admission, the inquiry team did not even survey most of the photographs

* the inquiry team was either ignorant of the content or intentionally lied about the 46% showing dead Syrian soldiers and attack victims.

* the inquiry team did their last interview with “Caesar” on January 18, quickly finalized a report and rushed it into the media on January 20, two days prior to the start of UN sponsored negotiations.

The self-proclaimed “rigor” of the Carter Ruck investigation is without foundation. The claims to a ‘scientific’ investigation are similarly without substance and verging on the ludicrous.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is involved.


In an interview on France24, Prof. David Crane of the inquiry team describes how ‘Caesar’ was brought to meet them by “his handler, his case officer”. The expression ‘case officer’ usually refers to the CIA. This would be a common expression for Prof. Crane who previously worked in the Defense Intelligence Agency. The involvement of the CIA additionally makes sense since there was a CIA budget of $1Billion for Syria operations in 2013.

Prof. Crane’s “Syria Accountability Project” is based at Syracuse University where the CIA actively recruits new officers despite student resistance.


Why does it matter if the CIA is connected to the ‘Caesar’ story? Because the CIA has a long history of disinformation campaigns. In 2011, false reports of viagra fueled rape by Libyan soldiers were widely broadcast in western media as the U.S. pushed for a military mandate. Decades earlier, the world was shocked to hear about Cuban troops fighting in Angola raping Angolan women. The CIA chief of station for Angola, John Stockwell, later described how they invented the false report and spread it round the world. The CIA was very proud of that disinformation achievement. Stockwell’s book, “In Search of Enemies” is still relevant.

The prosecutors portray simple administrative procedures as mysterious and sinister.


The Carter Ruck inquiry team falsely claimed there were about 11,000 tortured and killed detainees. They then posed the question: Why would the Syrian government photograph and document the people they just killed? The Carter Ruck Report speculates that the military hospital photographed the dead to prove that the “orders to kill” had been followed. The “orders to kill” are assumed.

A more logical explanation is that dead bodies were photographed as part of normal hospital/morgue procedure to maintain a file of the deceased who were received or treated at the hospital.

The same applies to the body labeling / numbering system. The Carter Ruck report suggest there is something mysterious and possibly sinister in the coded tagging system. But all morgues need to have a tagging and identification system.

The photos have been manipulated.


Many of the photos at the SAFMCD website have been manipulated. The information card and tape identity are covered over and sections of documents are obscured. It must have been very time consuming to do this for thousands of photos. The explanation that they are doing this to ‘protect identity’ is not credible since the faces of victims are visible. What are they hiding?

The Photo Catalog has duplicates and other errors.


There are numerous errors and anomalies in the photo catalog as presented at the SAFMCD website. For example, some deceased persons are shown twice with different case numbers and dates. There are other errors where different individuals are given the same identity number.

Researcher Adam Larson at A Closer Look at Syria website has done detailed investigation which reveals more errors and curious error patterns in the SAFMCD photo catalog.

With few exceptions, Western media uncritically accepted and promoted the story.


The Carter Ruck report was labeled “Confidential” but distributed to CNN, the Guardian and LeMonde.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour gushed the story as she interviewed three of the inquiry team under the headline “EXCLUSIVE: Gruesome Syria photos may prove torture by Assad regime”. Critical journalism was replaced by leading questions and affirmation. David Crane said “This is a smoking gun”. Desmond de Silva “likened the images to those of holocaust survivors”.

The Guardian report was titled “Syrian regime document trove shows evidence of ‘industrial scale’ killing of detainees” with subtitle “Senior war crimes prosecutors say photographs and documents provide ‘clear evidence’ of systematic killing of 11,000 detainees”

One of the very few skeptical reports was by Dan Murphy in the Christian Science Monitor. Murphy echoed standard accusations about Syria but went on to say incisively,

“the report itself is nowhere near as credible as it makes out and should be viewed for what it is: A well-timed propaganda exercise funded by Qatar, a regime opponent who has funded rebels fighting Assad who have committed war crimes of their own.”

Unfortunately that was one of very few critical reports in the mainstream media.

In 2012, foreign affairs journalist Jonathan Steele wrote an article describing the overall media bias on Syria. His article was titled “Most Syrians back Assad but you’d never know from western media”. The media campaign and propaganda has continued without stop. It was in this context that the Carter Ruck Report was delivered and widely accepted without question.

Politicians have used the Caesar story to push for more US/NATO aggression.


Politicians seeking direct US intervention for ‘regime change’ in Syria were quick to accept and broadcast the ‘Caesar’ story. They used it to demonize the Assad government and argue that the US must act so as to prevent “another holocaust’, ‘another Rwanda’, ‘another Cambodia’.

When Caesar’s photos were displayed at the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress, Chairman Ed Royce said

“It is far past time that the world act…. It is far past time for the United States to say there is going to be a safe zone across this area in northern Syria.”

The top ranking Democrat in the House Foreign Affairs Committee is Eliot Engel. In November 2015 he said

“We’re reminded of the photographer, known as Caesar, who sat in this room a year ago, showing us in searing, graphic detail what Assad has done to his own people.” 

Engel went on to advocate for a new authorization for the use of military force.

Rep Adam Kinzinger is another advocate for aggression against Syria. At an event at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in July 2015 he said,

“If we want to destroy ISIS we have to destroy the incubator of ISIS, Bashar al-Assad.”

The irony and hypocrisy is doubly profound since Rep Kinzinger has met and coordinated with opposition leader Okaidi who is a confirmed ally of ISIS. In contrast with Kinzinger’s false claims, it is widely known that ISIS ideology and initial funding came from Saudi Arabia and much of its recent wealth from oil sales via Turkey. The Syrian Army has fought huge battles against ISIS, winning some but losing others with horrific scenes of mass beheading.

The Human Rights Watch assessment is biased.


HRW has been very active around Syria. After the chemical attacks in greater Damascus on August 21, 2013, HRW rushed a report which concluded that, based on a vector analysis of incoming projectiles, the source of the sarin carrying rockets must have been Syrian government territory. This analysis was later debunked as a “junk heap of bad evidence” by highly respected investigative journalist Robert Parry. HRW’s assumption about the chemical weapon rocket flight distance was faulty. Additionally it was unrealistic to think you could determine rocket trajectory with 1% accuracy from a canister on the ground. To think you could determine flight trajectory from a canister on the ground that had deflected off a building wall was preposterous.

In spite of this, HRW stuck by its analysis which blamed the Assad government. HRW Director Ken Roth publicly indicated dissatisfaction when an agreement to remove Syrian chemical weapons was reached. Mr. Roth wanted more than a ‘symbolic’ attack.

In light of the preceding, we note the December 2015 HRW report addressing the claims of Caesar.

HRW seems to be the only non-governmental organization to receive the full set of photo files from the custodian. To its credit, HRW acknowledged that nearly half the photos do not show what has been claimed for two years: they show dead Syrian soldiers and militia along with scenes from crime scenes, car bombings, etc…

But HRW’s bias is clearly shown in how they handle this huge contradiction. Amazingly, they suggest the incorrectly identified photographs support the overall claim. They say, “This report focuses on deaths in detention. However other types of photographs are also important. From an evidentiary perspective, they reinforce the credibility of the claims of Caesar about his role as a forensic photographer of the Syrian security forces or at least with someone who has access to their photographs.” (HRW, p31) This seems like saying if someone lies to you half the time that proves they are truthful.

The files disprove the assertion that the files all show tortured and killed. The photographs show a wide range of deceased persons, from Syrian soldiers to Syrian militia members to opposition fighters to civilians trapped in conflict zones to regular deaths in the military hospital. There may be some photos of detainees who died in custody after being tortured, or who were simply executed. We know that this happened in Iraqi detention centers under U.S. occupation. Ugly and brutal things happen in war times. But the facts strongly suggest that the ‘Caesar’ account is basically untrue or a gross exaggeration.

It is striking that the HRW report has no acknowledgment of the war conditions and circumstances in Syria. There is no acknowledgment that the government and Syrian Arab Army have been under attack by tens of thousands of weaponized fighters openly funded and supported by many of the wealthiest countries in the world.

There is no hint at the huge loss of life suffered by the Syrian army and supporters defending their country. The current estimates indicate from eighty to one hundred and twenty thousand Syrian soldiers, militia and allies having died in the conflict. During the three years 2011 – 2013, including the period covered by Caesar photos, it is estimated that over 52,000 Syrian soldiers and civilian militia died versus 29,000 anti-government forces.

HRW had access to the full set of photographs including the Syrian army and civilian militia members killed in the conflict. Why did they not list the number of Syrian soldiers and security forces they identified? Why did they not show a single image of those victims?

HRW goes beyond endorsing the falsehoods in the ‘Caesar’ story; they suggest it is a partial listing. On page 5 the report says, “Therefore, the number of bodies from detention facilities that appear in the Caesar photographs represent only a part of those who died in detention in Damascus.”

On the contrary, the Caesar photographs seem to mostly show victims who died in a variety of ways in the armed conflict. The HRW assertions seem to be biased and inaccurate.

The legal accusations are biased and ignore the supreme crime of aggression.


The Christian Science Monitor journalist Dan Murphy gave an apt warning in his article on the Carter Ruck report about ‘Caesar’. While many journalists treated the prosecutors with uncritical deference, he said,

“Association with war crime prosecutions is no guarantor of credibility – far from it. Just consider Luis Moreno Ocampo’s absurd claims about Viagra and mass rape in Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya in 2011. War crimes prosecutors have, unsurprisingly, a bias towards wanting to bolster cases against people they consider war criminals (like Assad or Qaddafi) and so should be treated with caution. They also frequently favor, as a class, humanitarian interventions.”

The Carter Ruck legal team demonstrated how accurate those cautions were. They were eager to accuse the Syrian government of “crimes against humanity” but the evidence of “industrial killing”, “mass killing”, “torturing to kill” is dubious and much of the hard evidence shows something else.

In contrast, there is clear and solid evidence that a “Crime against Peace” is being committed against Syria. It is public knowledge that the “armed opposition” in Syria has been funded, supplied and supported in myriad ways by various outside governments. Most of the fighters, both Syrian and foreign, receive salaries from one or another outside power. Their supplies, weapons and necessary equipment are all supplied to them. Like the “Contras” in Nicaragua in the 1980’s, the use of such proxy armies is a violation of customary international law.

It is also a violation of the UN Charter which says “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other matter inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”.

The government of Qatar has been a major supporter of the mercenaries and fanatics attacking the sovereign state of Syria. Given that fact, isn’t it hugely ironic to hear the legal contractors for Qatar accusing the Syrian government of “crimes against humanity”?

Isn’t it time for the United Nations to make reforms so that it can start living up to its purposes? That will require demanding and enforcing compliance with the UN Charter and International Law
 
Rick Sterling is a retired aerospace engineer who now does research/writing on international issues. He can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com.
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